Announcing LCF GALA Grantees!

Latino youth are the fastest growing demographic in the state of California… and It’s time to invest in their leadership. That’s what we did at this year’s Gala!

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, young Latinos are optimistic about their future, place a high value on education, hard work and career success. Unfortunately, their actual circumstances do not align with their optimism. Latino youth are the least likely of all ethnic groups to graduate high school and attain a college degree. Currently, only 12% have earned a college degree. The majority of all students in California’s public schools are now Latino and they are California’s future.

At this year’s Gala, and thanks to your generosity, we raised $32,000 for our Fund-a-Need and are awarding grants to six Latino-led organizations that work with Latino youth – include The Bay Area Gardener’s Scholarship Foundation, North Bay Organizing Project, CDTech-LA, Carecen-SF, Youth Alliance, Latino Family Fund de Gilroy. In addition, we raised $9,000 for the Next Generation Latino Giving Circle program which offers scholarships to support emerging philanthropists in our community. Last but not least, we also raised $24,500 to support two Program Interns at LCF. 

BAGSF

Bay Area Gardener’s Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships to students in the Bay Area, where a large immigrant community resides and seeks higher education but lacks financial resources. Led by their founder, Catalino Tapia, this Foundation proves everyday that anyone can be a philanthropist. With their fund-a-need donation they will be able to support their recent cohort of 31 scholarship recipients with a laptop to supplement their undergraduate experience.

“This grant has come to us at a perfect time! We are celebrating our 10th anniversary and now be will be able to give laptops to each one of our 31 scholarships recipients. We are extremely thankful for our partnership and we know our students will be too when receiving those laptops on Saturday July 9th at our 10th Annual Gala and Recognition Dinner!”

Click here to buy tickets to their BAGSF’s 10th Anniversary Gala!


NBOP

North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP) unites diverse leaders to build leadership and grassroots power for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. With the active participation of member organizations, including Day Labor Centers, Latino-led Family Resource Centers, Churches and Congregations, NBOP is building a powerful vehicle for civic leadership and effective grassroots organizing. The Integrated Voter Engagement Team and the Latino Student Congress are currently focused on door to door canvassing, voter registration and local and regional GOTV activities.

NBOP led and recently won Santa Rosa’s first rent stabilization ordinance and helped San Mateo gather signatures for a similar rent stabilization and just cause eviction in partnership with Faith In Action Bay Area. Sonoma County’s housing shortage is among the worst in the U.S., with many working families unable to afford rent, and with multiple families crowding into 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. Recent Coverage on NPR.

“Thank you Latino Community Foundation for this investment in our work and in our grassroots leaders. Voting is not a spectator sport. We make our neighborhood count!”


CDTech equips South LA residents and youth to invest in each other’s lives and to transform their neighborhoods. A nonprofit organization with 20 years of experience in South LA, CDTech combines grassroots participation with strategic policy understanding.  CDTech trains community members on how to canvass door-to-door to engage, listen and educate their fellow residents on vital issues. Leveraging this connection, CDTech creates community development and economic development programs that incorporate deep insight into the actual needs, desires and capabilities of South LA residents. With this fund-a-need grant they will provide mentorship, leadership development and job training to Latino Community College Students in South Los Angeles aspiring for a carer in STEM. 

“What an honor it is for CDTech to be the very first LCF Grantee in Southern California!  This is the start of building a powerful new relationship that will bring new focus and new faces to address the issues of Southern California’s Latino communities and to create new locally-led investments in equitable development of the region’s next generation of Latino leaders.”


CARECEN
CARECEN-SF provides vital services and engages in community development and advocacy to help create a vibrant and thriving Latino immigrant community in San Francisco’s Mission District and beyond. With this fund-a-need grant, CARECEN will help provide a second chance to Latino kids from the Mission District who are coming out of juvenile detention.

“We are thrilled about the Latino Community Foundation gift!  Thank you for your partnership and support.  The entire CARECEN team is pleased with this generous donation and the Second Chance Youth Program will use the funds to continue to reach young people in the community. “


youth allianceYouth Alliance offer a safe space for youth to find their purpose and path, all while becoming active members of a community that is caring, knowledgeable,  creative, and above all else inclusive. Youth Alliance strives to create thriving and equitable communities through comprehensive, innovative and culturally relevant services that equip youth and families to become change agents in their own lives and in their community. Their fund-a-need grant will be used to provide young Latino men from San Benito an opportunity to learn about their culture, become civically engaged, and instill a sense of hope and purpose.

“Youth Alliance is privileged to be funded by the Latino Community Foundation to further our work in developing the next generation of Latino leaders in the Central Coast. We sincerely thank you for believing in us.”


 

GILROY 2Latino Family Fund de Gilroy builds the confidence of Latino middle school students through an innovative grant giving program in Gilroy, California. The Latino Family Fund de Gilroy increases the participation and visibility of Latinos in the philanthropic sector and instills youth with a commitment to giving back and leadership in their community.

With their fund-a-need grant they will be able to provide middle school students in Gilroy the opportunity to be mentored by philanthropic leaders, experience first-hand the art and science of grantmaking, and become civically engaged in their communities.

Uplifted and Inspired

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Our new CEO, Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, kicked off the Summit with key Latino Equity Data, and set the stage for the theme of the day, concrete solutions on two key issues: Climate Change and Higher Education. She reminded us that data, alongside our stories have the power to change the hearts and minds of our leaders. Additionally, for the first time in history, Latinos hold the top two leadership posts in the state legislature and we had the honor to have both Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and the Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon address our audience of more than 250 elected officials, government representatives, community leaders, and advocates from across the state of California.

Guillermo Mayer and Dr. Belinda Reyes were powerful facilitators who asked tough questions and engaged the voices of our participants in the panels on Climate Change and Higher Education.

By the end of the second panel, leaders were eager for collective action!

More than 150 statewide leaders, advocates and donors joined us for an Afternoon of Action at the Capitol, many for the very first time. A special thank you to our Legislative Captains who helped facilitate meaningful discussions and strengthened relationships with our legislators and their staffers. We are proud of our community’s interest in helping shape a better California.

To access materials made available at the Summit, click here and to see Summit Photos.

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Press Release: Latino Community Foundation Tackles Environmental Justice and Higher Education

LCF Sacramento Summit 2016

 Latino Community Foundation Tackles Environmental Justice and Higher Education 

Sacramento, CA (March 30, 2016) – The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) will host its 4th annual Latino Equity Summit on March 30th at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel. This year’s Summit will bring together over 250 Latino elected officials, government representatives, community leaders, and advocates from across the state of California. The annual Sacramento Summit is the only program of its kind that raises Latino issues and effective solutions in a one-day forum. Juan Hernandez, Executive Director of La Luz in Sonoma County said that “The candid discussions among Summit participants combined with the policy analysis and networking creates an atmosphere of comradery and hope.” The Summit will address two urgent topics for the Latino community— environmental justice and higher education.

LCF’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, will kick off the day by setting a framework for a Latino Equity Agenda and introduce Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León. For the first time in history, Latinos hold the top two leadership posts in the state legislature. “The appointments of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Kevin de Leon present an important opportunity for our communities to unify and champion policies that will advance greater equity for Latino families.” Said Jacqueline Martinez Garcel.  Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is confirmed as the keynote luncheon speaker.

Guillermo Mayer, President and CEO of Public Advocates, will host the conversation on Latinos and the Environment. Dr. Belinda Reyes, Director of the Cesar E. Chavez Institute for Public Policy will host the conversation on Latinos and Higher Education. Renowned leaders from these sectors will showcase successful Latino-led strategies for advancing opportunities and policies on these issues.

The day will conclude with an Afternoon of Action at the state capitol. LCF has organized Legislative visits with key decision-makers and their staff to establish and strengthen relationships and to help move the day’s discussions into action. These visits will start a dialogue about opportunities for change to help California’s Latino families and communities. Immediately following the Legislative Visits, LCF, will host a networking reception at Cafeteria 15L.

Learn more at: http://www.latinocf.org/sacramento-summit.html

 

About the Latino Community Foundation

The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) is the premier Latino foundation in California. The mission of LCF is to inspire philanthropy, invest in Latino communities and lead transformative solutions for change. LCF fulfills this mission by investing in high-impact solutions, uniting leadership and inspiring philanthropy among Latinos. LCF is igniting a new generation of Latino philanthropists focused on inspiring positive changes in the Latino community.

Since 2008, LCF partnered with 65 Latino-based community partners and invested over $3.4 million in California’s Latino community.  LCF launched the California Latino Agenda, which brings issues that affect the Latino community to the forefront and connects philanthropic, business and community leaders to advocate for solutions that will empower Latino families, and create a better future for all Californians.

 

For more information about LCF visit www.latinocf.org  and www.facebook.com/latinocommunityfoundation

 

Latinos are Philanthropists // Join a Giving Circle!

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 Latinos are a generous community and we shouldn’t be underestimated as philanthropists.

Two years ago, we asked you to join our philanthropic movement led by and for the Latino community. We knew that there was a tremendous amount of passion and ingenuity that Latinos could bring to the field. And we were right! Our Giving Circle members have rolled up their sleeves by giving their time and talent to local Latino nonprofits. They are interested in the issues, in leveraging funding and are thinking about systemic change.

As of today, we have 122 Latino Giving Circle members in 5 active chapters. We are currently recruiting for Founding Members of the Latinos in Tech and the Sacramento Circle.This year, LCF Giving Circles will be investing $100,000 in grants to Latino-based organizations that they have selected. Today we ask you to join! Stop by any of our upcoming meetings to see how it all works. Be part of a community that is empowering change. Give back in a meaningful, fun, and important way.

  • Minimum donation is $1,000/year
  • 100% of your donation goes back to the Latino community
  • Contact Sara Velten to join – email her at svelten@sff.org 
  • Check out the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s blog post about LCF’s work in Catalyzing Community Giving. 

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CALENDAR OF UPCOMING MEETINGS / RSVP WITH SARA VELTEN /
JOIN US! 

  • Latino Men’s Giving Circle: August 19th 
  • SF Latina Giving Circle: August 20th 
  • Sacramento Co-ed Latino Giving Circle: August 26th 
  • Peninsula Latina Giving Circle: August 27th 
  • East Bay Latina Giving Circle: September 3rd
  • Pleasanton Latina Giving Circle: September 8th 
  • Latinos in Tech (co-ed) TBD

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WOMEN HELPING WOMEN – CATALYZING COMMUNITY GIVING

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WOMEN HELPING WOMEN: HOW THREE GROUPS ARE ENABLING AND INSPIRING WOMEN OF COLOR TO LEAD CHANGE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES

Catalyzing Community Giving, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

A few years ago, the San Francisco-based Latino Community Foundation noticed a significant uptick in the number of Latino women donors asking how to get more involved in its work to help vulnerable Latino families and children. “They wanted to give back in a deeper manner,” says Sara Velten, the foundation’s VP of philanthropy.

In response, the foundation organized its first giving circle, launched in November 2012. In its first two years, that giving circle—made up of an intergenerational group of Latina women from highly diverse backgrounds—distributed $30,000 in small grants to mainly women-led groups doing powerful work in their community. “It’s unbelievable what these organizations have been able to do with [these grants],” says Velten. “And the fact that they’re getting individual support from Latinas—from mothers like them—it’s very special for them.”

The Latino Community Foundation currently has five giving circles, four of them all female. With its Catalyzing Community Giving grant, the organization is working to grow its giving circle program—and to further engage Latina donors. “The format is very appealing to women,” Velten says. “And it’s unbelievable how they now use their voices in ways they wouldn’t even think about a few years ago.”

“We know that women will give if they are also taking action,” says K. Sujata, president and CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women, an organization with a long history of developing women and girls as leaders and philanthropists. The foundation is now using this principle to guide its Catalyzing Community Giving work to grow—and, importantly, diversify—its donor base. “The focus of our project is to engage more donors and expand the diversity of our donors, at all levels of giving,” she says.

One cohort of donors the foundation hopes to more fully engage is millennials—specifically, young women of color. The organization already boasts a giving circle made up almost entirely of millennials. But recruiting more young women donors means “finding out what moves them and what activates them,” says Sujata, adding that this cohort is particularly driven by issues related to justice.

Meanwhile, the Women’s Foundation for Greater Memphis is also using its Catalyzing Community Giving grant to recruit new women to philanthropy, albeit in a different way. The organization is helping local women of color-led civic organizations to secure more donors and more resources by enhancing their communications and messaging strategies—particularly those designed to engage donors of color in their work and their programs.

Helping these organizations develop the messaging that touches the hearts of donors of color—and taps into what executive director Ruby Bright calls their “deep spirit of giving”—is a key part of this effort. The foundation is also teaching these organizations and their leaders about fund development and how to expand their programs to achieve further impact.

Through these efforts, all three foundations are learning more than they ever knew before about how to inspire women of color to engage even more deeply in and through philanthropy. “This project is a learning lab for us,” says Bright.

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Empowering Change – LCF Sacramento Summit 2015

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There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a room filled with motivated Latino leaders!

Last week we brought together more than 170 community leaders and advocates in Sacramento for our 3rd annual California Latino Agenda, Sacramento Summit.

The Sacramento Summit, filled the room with shared personal stories, inspiration and newfound connections with leaders from across the field. Senator Ricardo Lara and Jeanette Zanipatin kicked off the morning with a focus on civic engagement and critical Latino bills. Both Jerry Tello and Maria Lemus reminded us to draw from the power of our culture to make a difference in our communities.

Our afternoon keynote speaker Akaya Windwood said that she felt at home. She reminded leaders to focus on living a life of purpose and balance. We ended the day with our incredible youth panel – Abraham, Imelda, and Sandy – who demonstrate that despite the setbacks, our young people are equipped with tremendous resilience and energized to create a better tomorrow.

Gracias to all of our attendees, our inspiring speakers, and our community! Together, we are inspiring action, empowering change, and transforming Latino communities. Thank you to Southwest Airlines for being LCF’s official airline.

To access resources that were made available during the Summit, click here.

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

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Our Latino Road Map to Healing and Wellness: Building a National Model

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By: Angela Gallegos-Castillo PhD, Community Builder/Planner

Just three years ago, hundreds of community members—mothers and fathers, teachers, youth,  abuelos and abuelas, counselor, and nonprofit leaders in the Mission District of San Francisco came together and said YA BASTA to the senseless violence and deaths of six Latino youth within a five-week period.  Over 500 residents responded to “el grito” and came together to collectively identify community solutions. “No more business as usual. No more watching our kids fall through the bureaucratic cracks” they said.

After several town halls and many workgroup meetings later, the community process produced the Roadmap to Peace: A Community Proposal (RTP), a five-year community-driven systems reform initiative. This proposal is based on the knowledge we all know:  that the longer youth remain disconnected, the more they are exposed to increased risks that can ultimately lead to prison or death. The RTP seeks to change that path by providing an effective alternative. Rather than asking youth to accommodate to bureaucratic processes, the RTP builds systems around the needs of youth. How?

First, Rood Map to Peace is rooted in community-based knowledge and solutions. We, the compilation of the Latino community: teachers, service providers, abuelos, parents, family members etc. have the cultural and linguistic knowledge and wisdom to effectively support the healing of our young men and women. We know that to effectively facilitate youth’s journey to healing and wellness, we must embrace restorative justice, resiliency, trauma-informed, and intergenerational principles; our approach must be holistic and coordinated.

Second, the Rood Map to Peace promotes on-demand services. This concept has been raised numerous times for various issues, and there’s a reason. It’s essential for disconnected youth. Linking youth to support and services when THEY need it is pretty revolutionary. Currently, youth and their families wait—sometimes as long as three months— for help. By the time youth can finally be seen, their problems have worsened. On-demand services means youth and their families can receive care without waiting, thereby warding off increased risks.

Third, is the notion of shared care conferencing. Remember when it was said that “it takes a village?” But what happens if the villagers don’t have a process for communicating about the developing needs of each youth? That’s the system we currently have. On average, a disconnected youth typically needs support for housing, healthcare, education, job training, and behavioral support. That usually means s/he must work with five or more service providers, most of whom don’t talk with each other about that one youth. Services and solutions remain in silos, leaving young person frustrated with an overly bureaucratic system. We aim to create a coordinated, integrated service network that communicates together to create a human safety net for each young person so they don’t fall through the cracks.

Fourth, Rood Map to Peace is also tackling policy reforms. Existing policies around juvenile justice, program budgeting targeting disconnected youth, and police responses to neighborhood violence must be revisited with an eye towards social justice and equity. For example, we know the restorative justice framework is healing and effective at reducing violence and conflict. However this framework has yet to be adopted in most school districts as the strategy for reducing suspensions and expulsions. It’s time to integrate policies that support equity, social justice and healing into current systems. Advocating for these and other policy changes will go far in the creation of positive, healthy options and connections for young people, their families and the communities they live in.

IT’s TIME! Together, as an organized and collective voice, we can make a difference in how we engage, inform and support the healing of our Latina/o youth and their families and collectively change the institutional practices that don’t work. As they say, “If not us, then who?”

Come join us! We are seeking partners – youth, residents, agencies and institutions – in San Francisco who are interested in peace-making and strengthening community connections among our youth. Please contact us if you would like to assist or if you’d like more information. Please contact Angela Gallegos-Castillo at angela.gallegos-castillo@ifrsf.org

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Road Map to Peace Partnership

The Road Map to Peace initiative is directed by a colectiva that encompasses the following members:  community residents, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Mission Peace Collaborative, CARECEN of San Francisco, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Bay Area Community Resources (CHALK), Asian Neighborhood Design, Five Keys Charter School, Mission Peace Collaborative, Horizons, Inc., UCSF Clinical and Translation Science Institute, and SFSU Cesar Chavez Institute. The mission of the RTP is increase the economic security, health and safety of San Francisco Latina/o youth in the Mission district and citywide.Roadmap to peace

 

Change happens…One Day at a Time

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I was a sophomore in high school when I met Johnny Rodriguez. He wasn’t a teacher, a cop, or a counselor. He was a guy that looked like the people in my neighborhood. We spoke the same language, but he had something different to say. He also cared about what I had to say. For some reason, he believed I was much more than what I believed. There’s something special that happens inside of you when you meet someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. Change happens.

What was different about Johnny is that he believed in all of us, no matter what we looked like, what we had done, or what we had been through. As a young Latino from a rough neighborhood, I felt good about not being judged. I felt confident. I felt empowered!

Johnny stood by me and my friends through thick and thin, and he did the same for many others. He dedicated himself to helping us all believe in ourselves.  ODAT is the manifestation of what Johnny did for us back then and what we all strive to do today.

One Day at a Time (ODAT) means different things to different people. But the essence is the same. We create familia. Some have said,

  • “ODAT is a place where you can share who you are, what you are, and not be judged.”
  • “ODAT creates a sense of belonging. A family where all differences are accepted and admired.”
  • “ODAT saved my life.”

If you asked me, I’d say ODAT creates a family culture and a belief that your son, daughter, grandchild, or nephew can reach their greatest potential if they have the support and opportunities they deserve.

Today, I am grateful to come back to serve in Brentwood as the Development & Business Manager for ODAT, an organization that was created by my mentor. Johnny, who is still my mentor and our Executive Director, taught me that, “You can’t change people. You can only give them opportunities to see life in a different way. Change won’t come overnight; it happens One Day At a Time.”

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One Day At a Time or ODAT was founded in 1997 and is a Latino-based organization dedicated to providing positive educational and personal growth opportunities to young adults in East Contra Costa County and San Joaquin County. ODAT youth build better relationships with other peers, improve relationships at home and also perform better academically. We achieve this by providing a supportive network of peers and adults, promoting positive lifestyles, enhancing educational learning experiences, and developing decision-making skills that empower young leaders to realize their full potential.

Follow ODAT on FACEBOOK

By Ramiro Ibarra, Development and Business Manager at ODAT

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This is What Leadership Looks Like

camille By: Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, Executive Director, Somos Mayfair

Somos Mayfair is a grassroots, place-based organization that has been working in the Mayfair neighborhood of East San Jose for more than 16 years. In our largely working-poor, immigrant, Latino community, our mission is to cultivate the dreams and the power of the people living here.

We are most known for our robust Promotor leadership development model that equips community residents with the tools they need to claim their individual power, take collective action, and address the most pressing issues and challenges that confront them on a daily basis. But because the core of our work is community engagement and leadership development, many wonder how we measure our success.

  • What does leadership look like?
  • How do you measure it?
  • How do you know when you have succeeded?

I have grappled with these questions for some time now, and while we use an array of measurement tools- pre and post surveys, an annual community assessment, quarterly dashboards, focus groups, and testimonials – nothing does our work justice.

Our work is often NOT linear, in which it goes from a problem, to an intervention, to a result…from point A, to point B, and point C. Rather it’s a process that moves, ebbs and flows, as a person grows and learns; as she runs into her own barriers, and has to navigate a new way around them.

Nearly 2 years ago, I met Dilza, a mother of three young children living in Mayfair. Immediately, I picked up on the deeply rooted sense of isolation and disconnection with her community. As a daughter of immigrants, I immediately recognized these emotions.

As we launched our partnership with parents at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, I saw Dilza more and more. She came to Somos because she was invited and welcomed. She had a space to engage, a place to connect with other parents, and ultimately, she connected with her OWN power within. 

Dilza is now a Somos promotora who advocates on behalf of not only her own children but all Mayfair children daily. This past fall, Dilza came into my office to share her OWN plan of action in response to a challenge that the parents were facing on campus and started to organize.

Today, Dilza is the President of the Chavez Parent Advisory Committee and is working closely with another parent leader and promotora, Olivia, to engage Mayfair parents in our District’s Local Control Accountability Plan process. They went to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) hearing in Sacramento; have conducted parent educational session; and are organizing around the biggest education-finance reform in our community.

Dilza’s story is not an isolated one. At Somos, there are countless stories of transformation and examples of leadership that keep our movement going.

  • Irma and Maria Teresa, long time Somos Promotores are invited to community events across San Jose and the Silicon Valley region to speak about their experiences and reflections of leadership. They don’t get invited through Somos and show up with talking points. Rather, they get their own invitations; show up; and have a voice at the table amidst policy makers and other executive directors.
  • Saul, a Mayfair father, organized a free, neighborhood soccer league for Mayfair children. He raised the money, bought the equipment, and recruited volunteer parent coaches to run weekly practices and games. He has organized three 12-week sessions thus far.

Our work has been described to me by one of our major investors as “SOUL” work

It is the work that taps into people souls, into their core, and transforms the way they think and how they take action. This work supports individuals to move from acting as an individual, to acting as a community.

  • At Somos, we support the shift from isolation to connection.
  • We move people to organize themselves into a community that does, not a community that just is.
  • We support people in strengthening their self-confidence, so that they can challenge the multigenerational misconceptions of our community and of ourselves.

As you can imagine, this “Soul Work” gets messy from time to time. So, when it gets messy, I have to remind myself that amidst all the issues that Mayfair families confront on a daily basis, they continue to SHOW UP! They show up and fill our front room with chatter and commotion to learn from one another; to plan community actions; and to identify new ways to attack the root causes of their problems.

They show up, because they are driven by HOPE, the hope and dreams that their children will have a different life, with greater opportunities and more possibilities. So, if they are willing to show up, time and time again; then so must I.

It takes daily renewal. It requires every staff member, Promotor and volunteer to recommit every day -to center everything on this hope.

So, in Mayfair, showing up, taking collective action, and being continuously driven by hope, even on the toughest of days…well, that is what leadership looks like.

jaime!!!

Our Community has GANAS for Change

By: Alejandra Gutierrez, Youth Organizing Coordinator, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ)

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I come from a hardworking, Mexican family that taught me the value of ganas, which does not have a direct English translation, but for me, it means that if you have passion for something, you must work hard to attain it no matter what it takes. While attending the University of California Irvine, I was inspired by my community organizing classes and justice became what I had ganas for. The love that I have for social justice work was first developed through my studies, but it truly solidified through the teachings of my mentors, the ones that showed me how to organize. Grassroots organizing brings solutions.

I am honored to be working as the Youth Organizing Coordinator at Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ). I grew up in a small town in the Eastern Coachella Valley – a poor, marginalized, and agricultural community.  Although Stockton is not where I was raised, I now proudly call it home.  On paper and via statistics, Stockton is not where you come to realize your dreams. In fact, Stockton has been named one of the most miserable cities by Forbes magazine and became the largest American city to declare bankruptcy. Stockton has very high unemployment rates and one of the highest homicide and incarceration rates in the State. But we, at Fathers and Families continue to work with the most powerful tool to bring about change- our people. And we are seeing real results. Last year, we joined forces with our community and rallied to prevent the development of a new prison in our county. This was a tremendous victory that deeply motivated our community to continue efforts to bring alternatives to incarceration and support for the formerly incarcerated, which will inevitably strengthen families and our greater community.

What makes us so successful is the fact that we don’t “serve” people, we engage the community and create a positive and empowered extended family. The people we engage through our programs feel like they are part of something bigger in their community, something that they help shape and lead.  We are a community-based organization and our organizing is led by a diverse Latino, African-American, and Asian community. There is no division between me, the organizer, and the person who walks into our doors. We treat individuals and all families with love and respect. Not one single person walks in and out of our center without acknowledgement, without a handshake, and very rarely, without a hug. Nor do they leave without hearing words of encouragement and hope that follow them throughout the rest of their day, and will hopefully follow them for the rest of their lives.

We are intentional about working with the most vulnerable populations. In our Youth Program, we reach out to the youth who others have failed to engage and would consider the most difficult to work with. Their stories become our story and they become part of our family. We follow the teachings of our maestros and maestras (mentors) that have guided us in bringing healing into our community. When we learn about our roots and cultura, we remove our blindfolds and gain the mental freedom to understand that in fact, we can change our destiny. We resist, insist and persist that we, the people, will shape a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future for Stockton.

I pass down the importance of having ganas as I organize our youth and partner with our elders. I know that if we can come together, we can achieve the impossible. I invite you to join our movement in Stockton or to find ganas for making change in your own community.

alejandra