By Jose Hernandez and Paola Villarino—Mid-City CAN Youth Council
The mayor’s proposal to hire the new chief of police through a secret panel is flawed and unacceptable. Mid-City CAN is part of the Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency, urging the mayor to form a transparent search committee that includes members nominated by the community.
We commend the city for the addition of community forums in City Heights and San Ysidro, but moving forward with a secret panel will only weaken community trust in the next chief of police.
Peace, safety, and fairness from a transparent, open, and accountable democracy. This is what we, as youth, need to thrive. And that is why we are so committed to making sure our next police chief is hired through a community-led process. The inclusion of funding for a national search in the San Diego city budget was a great first step, but how that search is conducted is even more important. As youth, we are working to make City Heights—one of our city's most policed neighborhoods—more safe, healthy, and productive. We call on our leaders to step out from behind closed doors and work hand-in-hand with the community to select our next police chief.
My name is Jose Hernandez and I am a City Heights resident and a student at SDSU. My experiences with police have largely been positive. I have interacted with honest and ethical officers who were just doing their job. In fact, I feel safe knowing there are officers around. However, I also know some police officers abuse their power and for many in my community, including family members, most conversations about the police involve brutality and distrust. Without change, our community cannot experience peace, feel safe, or believe in justice. To truly foster trust, the city must be transparent and allow the community to lead the efforts of selecting the next SDPD chief.
My name is Paola Villarino. I became an American Citizen in April of this year and am committed to helping improve who we are as people, as a community, and as a nation. Coming together as a community to hire our next police chief will lead to improved relationships between police and those most impacted by the decision. By leading the process, we will be more trustful of the department and be even more invested in the new chief’s success. With trust, San Diego will become safer, as people will be more likely to come forward as victims or witnesses of crimes. We as the citizens and the youth of San Diego should not be afraid of going to police for help. We should walk hand in hand, to improve who we all are. Growing up, many of us struggled to understand the actions of those around us—family, police, friends—now we still question their decisions and make our own based on the lessons we learned and the values we hold dear. Our hiring process should incorporate those lessons and values, and create healthy guidelines through group meetings and discussions based on patience and the future we wish to share with generations to come.
Together, we represent the growing group of young San Diegans committed to making our city the peaceful, safe, and fair community we and our families need to reach our potential and prosper. In order to create this future, we call on our local leaders to provide us with a transparent, open, and accountable democracy that listens and responds to the community's needs.
Click here for SDUT's San Diegans want new police chief to focus on pay, racial profiling, transparency
I’m Halima Ali. I was born in the refugee camp in Kenya because my family was running away from the war in Somalia. I came to the USA in 2004. I’m involved with this community because we need to make our voice heard and change a lot within this community. I am a member of City Heights Youth for Change, right now we are focused on the Building Better San Diego. We are trying to get more affordable housing for people that are low income. I am also a co-chair of the Food Justice Momentum Team with Mid-City CAN.
My name is Jazmine, I am 17 year's old, I attend Diego Hills Charter School & what I would like to see in my community change is the lack of resources to let young teens know there are options for a healthier life, to graduate school with tutors & teachers helping you every step of the way, and having sport team fundraisers so youth could have active lifestyles & stay out of trouble or most importantly do what there passionate about. Most low income families can't afford it, so I'd like more adults, teachers, police officers, and other youth to reach out to youth in our community to let them know we care and we're here to make a better future for every single one of them and build trust in the community.
My name is Daniela Barron, I am 22 years old and have been part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council for almost 7 years. I believe that homelessness is an issue that has to be worked on in San Diego. The money that is set in the budget to help with this issue should be well spent in programs to actually help the homeless with their health needs, getting jobs, or even returning to school.
Priscilla Perez is a 15 year old junior and second generation resident of City Heights. She is involved in her community as an active volunteer at Mid-City Community Clinic and in the children's ministry at her local church. As someone who has observed and experienced challenges accessing health care, including traveling to Mexico to receive specialized care, Priscilla is passionate about improving disparities in health access that exist in low-income communities.
My name is Marissa, I am a junior and attend Helix Charter High School. I am involved in Speech and Debate, tennis, and I love to volunteer at community events. I am passionate about helping my community and solving social issues. In my spare time I enjoy reading and discussing politics. A social issue that I feel is plaguing my neighborhood is children lacking the positive role models in their life. With the usage of media being very influential in children's lives and the media usually portraying a negative role model. Either they receive that from the media or they learn it at home. With children absorbing information and mimicking behavior that they learn, this is a very powerful tool, that needs to be utilized. This influence needs to be approached and targeted more in my community. I feel it is very important for young children to have a role model in their life as well as being involved in school, especially at a young age. I would love to solve how we can incorporate more positive leaders in children's lives through public education.
My name is DeVonte White and I am a student at Hoover High School. In social Justice my main issues are how disconnected our community is and the unspoken youth. I believe if the community came together, the ones that take care of the youth as well as the youth would be more comfortable. When entering a new place many of my peers are scared that the new place will not be "safe" or willing to accept them. Youth are gaining a voice through groups that are forming (Example: Peace Council), but when it comes to any decision that would affect them, where are they to be found? We are able to put our input on other subjects, except for a decision that they deem for adults only. Even if it affects the youth.
Nichole Castillo is a 19 year old female currently attending City College. She is passionate in her QTPOC work in helping organize creative safe spaces for QTPOC folks, especially during these times of anti black, brown, and LGBTness,Nichole Castillo is a 19 year old female currently attending City College. She is passionate in her QTPOC work in helping organize creative safe spaces for QTPOC folks, especially during these times of anti black, brown, and LGBTness.
Rile Grant has long been involved in social justice work, focused on educational issues, beginning by lobbying for virtual education in Sacramento and recently attending the Women's March in D.C. as a youth with opinions and a voice. When not speaking up for youth opportunities or volunteering in his community, Rile enjoys eating homemade deep dish pizza with his family.
“Have you ever messed up?” Over 50 people in the crowd raised their hands, responding to Benita Page from Tariq Khamisa Foundation. “Restorative practices need to be a way of life,” Page added, “because we’re all going to have challenges and mistakes.”
Last Wednesday, August 31st Mid-City CAN celebrated the adoption of the School Climate Bill of Rights, which prioritizes restorative practices and principles over traditional punitive policies in San Diego Unified. Leading up to the screening of Education Under Arrest, the community celebration centered around the conversation that restorative practices, to be successful, need to become a way of life and not just a discipline policy.
“To restore means to make whole again, it means to put back together. And really, that should be at the core of us anyway when we are dealing with our children, when we are dealing with our youth,” ACLU Criminal Justice Advocate, Monica Montgomery, reiterated. The current discipline system does not consider the trauma, social issues, and hardships that students experience, often resorting to suspensions and expulsions as the solution when students don’t follow school rules.
“A lot of the students that we’re working with are coming in with trauma so to expect that a student can keep their head up during class when they have all these traumas that are not being taken into consideration, that’s really the problem with zero tolerance,” added Zorel Zambrano, Curriculum Developer and Teacher in Restorative Justice for Special Education.
To embody restorative practices means to create a community and culture of healing and support that address the social issues and stressors that affect our health and wellbeing before they manifest as discipline issues.
The goal of the School Climate Bill of Rights is to create safe and healing learning environments in our San Diego schools by fostering trust in the classroom and district-wide by actively creating community and a sense of belonging where students have a voice. When discipline issues do arise, the bill of rights seeks to minimize suspensions and expulsions whenever possible by turning to alternative discipline methods that hold students accountable while affording them constructive ways to make up for their wrongs. Allowing students to remain in school means their learning isn’t interrupted and they can continue to be equipped with the tools to contribute in their families and communities.
Los latinos enfrentamos un sistema lleno de barreras para poder tomar decisiones en nuestra comunidad. La desconfianza, las dificultades con el idioma, y la omisión de nuestras necesidades son algunas de las barreras que limitan la participación de los latinos en la toma de decisiones y en el voto. En City Heights, donde más de la mitad de la comunidad es de origen latino, el voto es la clave para tener una voz y procurar la seguridad, la salud y el bienestar de nuestros seres queridos. En Mid-City CAN estamos expandiendo nuestro trabajo para que el voto sea más accesible ya que queremos ver mejores resultados, más rápido, para nuestra comunidad latina y todo City Heights.
La desconfianza impide que como latinos nos sintamos incluidos e importantes en el voto. “No hay confianza en el gobierno, nos hacen sentir que no importamos, pero es importante que nos escuchen porque como latinos somos valiosos”, comenta la señora Delia Contreras, vicepresidenta del Comité Organizador Latino de City Heights. Además de la desconfianza, en nuestra comunidad existe el miedo a la deportación y a las políticas anti inmigrantes.
“El idioma también nos limita”, explica la señora Delia, “seguido no saben que hay boletas en español”. La señora Delia ha participado con Mid-City CAN en nuestra labor de registro y educación electoral. Junto con miembros del Comité Organizador Latino, ha platicado con la comunidad latina en City Heights en parques, restaurantes, y de casa en casa sobre la importancia del voto y las necesidades de los latinos.
Esto es algo que las campañas electorales tradicionales no suelen hacer.
Por lo general, al no interesarse en nuestra comunidad, las campañas de registro y educación electoral tradicionales ignoran la voz de los electores latinos. Al priorizar a comunidades más pudientes sobre las necesidades y opiniones de la comunidad latina, el proceso electoral, desde las campañas hasta las elecciones, mantiene a nuestra comunidad a las orillas de la toma de decisiones.
Mid-City CAN quiere asegurar que la voz de los latinos esté al centro de las conversaciones sobre nuestra comunidad. Queremos lograr esto fomentando una relación de confianza con nuestra comunidad latina. Es por esto que estamos ampliando nuestro trabajo de registro y educación electoral. Estamos contratando a diez Neighborhood Captains, capitanes de la comunidad, para participar en nuestra iniciativa electoral que comienza el 16 de octubre, 2017.
Invitamos a residentes de City Heights, inmigrantes, refugiados y adultos jóvenes que sean bilingües a que apliquen para esta posición de Neighborhood Captain. Haz clic aquí para aplicar.
La meta de nuestro alcance electoral es conocer a nuestros vecinos en la comunidad de City Heights varios años antes de la próxima elección presidencial y un año antes de las elecciones de mitad de periodo. Es nuestra intención aprender sobre sus preocupaciones para poder conectarlos con información sobre las leyes y campañas que abordan los temas que más les importa. “Cuando uno es amable, logramos que pierdan el miedo”, comenta la señora Delia, sobre el esfuerzo de Mid-City CAN y la meta de hacer del proceso del voto un proceso seguro y accesible para todos.
Al llegar la temporada de las elecciones queremos que nuestra comunidad latina esté bien informada y tenga la confianza y conocimiento sobre cómo ejercer su voto.
En estos tiempos de miedo y desconfianza por las políticas anti inmigrantes y el riesgo de deportación, es nuestra meta en Mid-City CAN conocer a nuestra comunidad latina, escuchar sus preocupaciones, y a través de la confianza, apoyar a esta gran comunidad en la toma de decisiones mediante el voto informado. Como concluyó la señora Delia, educamos, registramos y motivamos al voto para que el día de mañana digan “yo voté por esta ley para que tengan los beneficios nuestros descendientes”
To vote is to have a say in our community’s safety, health, and quality of life. At Mid-City CAN we are expanding our voter engagement efforts to build power in City Heights. Our goal is to see better and quicker results for our community. We are part of a movement to ensure fairness across all places by making sure that young people, immigrants, and low-income families also have a say.
Voting is about being able to make decisions on the issues that affect our everyday lives. From education and transportation to public spaces and safety, more affluent neighborhoods, which vote at a higher rate, have determined how and where resources and opportunities are allocated.
In the 2014 general election, for example, 62 percent of registered voters in Kensington cast ballots. One of its precincts had the third highest turnout in all of San Diego, at 70 percent. In contrast, the Teralta neighborhood in City Heights had 27 percent voter turnout, and its precincts were among the city’s lowest. Although both communities are in District 9, Kensington has more decision-making power in the district.
Our public structures—laws, highways, schools, community services, health agencies—often have sturdier foundations and are better funded in affluent neighborhoods. We want to ensure that resources, services, and opportunities are well-funded and allocated fairly regardless of where people live by mobilizing people to vote and have a say.
What better way to create positive change than to turn out the youth vote, the voice of our future leaders?
One of the goals of Mid-City CAN is to increase the participation of young people at the polls. In 2017 we will register 350 new youth voters, ages 18-24 and will pre-register 500 youth, ages 16-17. Our pre-registration starts during National Voter Registration Day on September 26th by engaging youth at different high schools across City Heights.
Not only are youth the future leaders in our community but they also have the power to activate their parents to vote.
Mid-City CAN is currently hiring a team of 10 Neighborhood Captains to support our Integrated Voter Engagement work, launching on October 16th. The focus of this effort is to build relationships and foster trust with our neighbors so that they are better informed and motivated to vote come election season. City Heights residents, immigrants, refugees, and young adults who are bilingual are encouraged to apply. Click here to apply.
Unlike traditional voter engagement campaigns that target high propensity voters weeks before an election, Mid-City CAN intends to connect with all registered voters in 16 sub neighborhoods years in advance of the next presidential election and a year in advance of mid-term elections.
In City Heights, where families come from different countries and many experience fear and distrust because of economic instability or immigration status, it is crucial to foster trust and build relationships to mobilize people to vote. By learning about the issues that our community cares about, we intend to create a culture of educated voters who are aware of the campaigns and ballot measures that most impact their daily lives.
By building trust and learning about the issues that our community cares about, our voter engagement work will build power block by block leading to our goal of 5000 registered voters in City Heights by 2020 who will have a voice in making our community the safe, productive, and healthy community we all deserve.
Our youth are back from camp with new connections, insight, and knowledge.
Located in 1,500 acres of beautiful Yellow Pine Forest, Grizzly Creek Ranch hosts the Boys and Men of Color Camp and Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat, where youth of color from all over California—participating in the Building Healthy Communities initiative—converge to engage in a week-long program of team building, advocacy, storytelling, and leadership skills.
“Every time I go to these things, I listen to what people have to say and try to feel what they feel; that’s how you learn, by putting yourself in other people’s shoes,” Victor explained that he shares this new wisdom from camp with his younger brothers.
Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat, the girls and women of color camp, is relatively new and is itself a manifestation of the youth’s search for equity and opportunities to develop as leaders.
Leslie Renteria, a former member of Mid-City CAN Youth Council, explains that several young women attended a lobbying event in Sacramento in 2013 and realized that they were among hundreds of boys and men who, before the lobbying event, had attended “camp where they are prepared for lobbying days and make sure that they are educated on what they are going to be speaking.”
Renteria explains that young women did not have this same opportunity.
Along with a group of young women from other Building Healthy Community sites, Renteria organized and worked with The California Endowment to launch a retreat for girls and women of color to provide women an opportunity to learn from mentors and from each other. “It’s more about a space where we are able to connect with other young ladies or young women who at some point have been through the same struggle,” highlighted Renteria.
Having and all-women’s and all-men’s space is important “because it isn’t the same approach that we take when talking to boys and men of color [as it is] with girls and women, especially because we wanted to include our LBTQ folks and our undocumented ladies,” said Renteria. “As much as it is learning and gaining more knowledge, it is also healing and making sure that they accept the conditions that they are in and learning to heal from that. It is very empowering to know that I could be in this awful situation but at the same time I can learn to heal from it and grow as a person,” she added.
“Telling my story is powerful and my story can help others and the way I’ve overcome certain things can help others,” Figueroa explained the power behind sharing one’s story and learning from others.
The Boys and Men of Color Camp and Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat—now in its third year after an initial pilot in 2014—continue to inspire and prepare youth to create positive in their communities and to heal and learn from each other.
On July 11, 2017, the San Diego Unified School District unanimously voted to adopt the School Climate Bill of Rights put forth by the Mid-City CAN Peace Promotion Momentum Team.
To afford all students the best possible opportunity to succeed academically and socially, the School Climate Bill of Rights seeks district-wide implementation of restorative programming principles and processes over traditional punitive discipline methods. This is a major shift from the current discipline policies that disproportionately result in suspensions, expulsions, and arrests of youth of color, more specifically, Latino, African-American, and youth of African origin.
According to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, “black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5% of white students are suspended, compared to 16% of black students.”
"What you are doing here tonight is changing the future of schools in this community," said President of the school board, Richard Barrera, to the students involved in the creation of the bill of rights. In contrast with oppressive traditions and institutions like the incarceration system, Barrera added, schools are part of a tradition of “lifting people, opening up opportunity, and making us a more just community and a more just society.”
Too often, youth are funneled from schools to the prison system from an early age.
A preliminary report of the American Bar Association’s Joint Task Force on Reversing the School-to-Prison Pipeline addresses three major factors leading youth to the criminal justice system: the criminalization of school discipline, the increased presence of law enforcement officers in schools, and implicit bias in decision-making.
The School Climate Bill of Rights—a set of 6 essential rights for students, parents, and staff—addresses these three issues at SDUSD with an emphasis on comprehensive training and development, transparency, evaluation, as well as a Restorative Practices Advisory Committee made of students, parents/guardians, and educators.
The bill of rights comes at a pivotal time with the creation, earlier this month, of the school district’s Department of Restorative Practices.
School districts across California that have implemented restorative practices programming, such as Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have seen a decrease in suspension and expulsion rates. In San Diego some high schools, including Crawford, Lincoln, and Hoover have already implemented pilot programs and the School Climate Bill of Rights provides a platform for uniform implementation of restorative practices across the district.
Hilda Graciela Uriarte, Community Organizer with ACLU and member of the Peace Promotion Momentum Team commended the school district’s “commitment to practices that increase fairness, improve communication, and promote positive problem-solving mechanisms.” Uriarte also urged the board to allocate the necessary of funds to successfully become a restorative district.
"We hope in the future this commitment [to restorative practices] is solidified by budget choices that prioritize investments in these types of practices, counselors, and restorative justice strategies, and away from punitive measures," said Uriarte.
Additional Press Coverage
San Diego Unified Voting on School Climate Bill of Rights - NBC 7 San Diego
School Justice System Transformation has Support but Not the Funds - Voice of San Diego
Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
This August, I returned to the space that motivated me for years as a young woman growing up in City Heights, and I was reminded that I am capable of transforming my community.
There were dozens of roses blooming in the Sisterhood Rising Retreat, growing and blossoming despite injustice in the air. I saw a young lady gain the courage to stand in front of her sisters and sing. I saw another young woman physically and morally support her team during the ropes course. I was in the same spot not too long ago.
This space was created for us to finally step out of the box that society puts us in, for these young women to acknowledge that they are not weeds because their skin color is a darker shade, and to learn not to be ashamed of the battle scars they all have from the constant struggle of oppression.Read more
Last October, Carol Kim was in a hit and run car accident. Instead of staying at the scene, she had a more important mission to accomplish: convincing the people of City Heights that their votes count.
“I am so convinced that your vote counts that I called someone to pick me up from my totaled car to come here,” said Kim.
Kim is the Vice President of Run Women Run, an organization that supports, recruits, and trains women candidates to run for public office. She was one of three panelists to stress the importance of voting at the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network City Heights Community Convening. The Convening, formerly known as the Grantee Retreat, focused on empowering residents and organizations to engage people in City Heights to register to vote.
“We deserve to be at the decision making table. We deserve to have our voices heard. We cannot be there if we are not showing up and casting our ballots,” said Kim. “We are not heard unless we vote. Civic engagement is great, but if your folks are not voting, it’s just noise. I hate to say it. As politicians it’s just noise unless you cast those ballots”
Mid-City Community Advocacy Network is proud and honored to have an old friend return home to experience her neighborhood through new eyes. Lesliee Renteria writes about this exciting season in her own words:
"As an undocumented woman of color in City Heights I was constantly reminded to live behind the shadows, to not speak up because it was not my right. I grew a fear to walk in the streets surrounded with poverty and violence. I feared that my voice will be shut down and I will be denied from opportunities like my home country did. However, my advocates were around the corner of my house.
I began my journey of change with the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network Youth Council. I felt a sense of belonging despite my residency status and ethnicity. I was told that I had a voice and it mattered. Being surrounded by young leaders became my safe place. The skatepark campaignb was my first step into the world of organizing and advocacy. I was introduced to the power of the people and the power of community through a collective effort. It took lobbying our elected officials, rallying in our community, speaking with Private and Public foundations and about 4 years to obtain land and funding to construct a community skatepark for young skaters to receive their safe place. Mid-City CAN allowed me to realize that I can be my own advocate.Read more