CALIFORNIA: Youth Leaders Thrive at the Capitol

In early August, close to 300 young leaders of color and allies from communities across California traveled to Sacramento and met privately with nearly 100 legislators, representatives from Governor Jerry Brown’s office, and high-level administrators, such as State Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Torlakson, to advocate for policy change. These meetings were part of the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color’s third annual Education and Advocacy Days at the Capitol, an inspiring week of trainings, activism, and celebration.

The week’s events included a rally on the Capitol steps, where youth leaders called for an end to willful defiance and advocated for access to health care for undocumented Californians. During the rally, several lawmakers signed a petition to implement restorative justice models and Positive Behavior Intervention programs by the year 2016, end the use of willful defiance by the year 2018, and reduce all suspensions by 80 percent by the year 2020.

Youth leaders also presented Governor Brown’s staff with a thank you letter, expressing appreciation to the governor for engaging in a conversation to limit willful defiance, a school disciplinary standard that can be applied arbitrarily, does not address root causes of misbehavior, and results in disproportionate suspensions and expulsions for students of color.

The week culminated in the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color’s progress hearing, held annually to evaluate efforts by state agencies to implement recommendations in its 2012-2018 action plan to improve outcomes for California’s boys and young men of color in the areas of health, education, employment, juvenile justice, and youth development.

“We have a youth leader movement in this state that no other state has,” said Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, during the hearing’s opening remarks. “They have been walking the hallways of the Capitol, speaking with their passionate and profound voices.”

Also during the hearing, Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-62), chair of the Select Committee, announced AB 914 — a bill that would create a statewide, interagency taskforce to improve outcomes for California’s boys and young men of color, modeled after the federal taskforce created within the White House initiative, My Brother’s Keeper.

Over the next month, the Alliance will push the governor to sign its other identified priority bills. It will also work to increase support for Proposition 47, a ballot initiative that would change the status of several nonviolent offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and could change the lives of millions of Californians.

Watch youth-produced videos about a young leader’s experience in Sacramento and an overview of Education and Advocacy Days at the Capitol.

Read more about the Alliance’s week in Sacramento.

Take action to support the Alliance’s statewide policy priorities.

>>>Read the rest of the California Equity Quarterly Summer 2014 issue.


Anand Subramanian
Anand Subramanian