Comprehensive Community Development (youth/elder needs, trauma-informed healing, juvenile justice, educational equity, environmental justice)
Fathers & Families of San Joaquin
Over the course of two decades, Fathers & Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ) embedded YPAR within its practice, integrating it into their healing justice work with formerly incarcerated and system-impacted youth and families as well as efforts to promote educational equity and environmental justice. Youth In Focus had the privilege of working with FFSJ early on in its development, supporting a needs assessment that helped launch the organization’s work. This partnership continued for many years, with FFSJ facilitating YPAR projects in collaboration with staff from the UC Davis Center for Regional Change and its Putting Youth on the Map Program, amongst others.
FFSJ was born and operated under the core belief that the people closest to the problems are closest to the solutions. By integrating YPAR into their organizational structure and practices from the beginning, staff and youth leaders learned how to conduct research and use data in combination with their own stories and lived experiences to support direct action and systemic change in Stockton and throughout California’s San Joaquin Valley. Central to these efforts was their healing justice work, which included traditional healing ceremonies, sweat lodges, healing circles, and naming ceremonies. Their healing strategy was based on four central principles:
1. Healing is political;
2. Healing and organizing intersect;
3. Healing responds to the needs of the community; and
4. Healing is rooted in our spirituality and cultural traditions.
FFSJ facilitated numerous YPAR projects, including photovoice and air monitoring projects examining environmental injustice in South Stockton and a youth-produced documentary exploring the true costs of youth incarceration for formerly incarcerated youth, system-impacted families, and society as a whole. The organization’s early efforts led to the creation of a youth and family empowerment zone in Downtown Stockton, which included a youth empowerment center, an elder center, and a healing center that all provided a holistic set of supports. In addition, FFSJ was a key member of ESPINO (Escuelas Sí, Pintas No [Schools Yes, Prisons No]) a coalition formed in 2003 to bring attention and effort to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. ESPINO focused its collective YPAR efforts on the issue of racism within the juvenile justice and education systems in order to create progressive systemic change while working to develop critical consciousness for empowerment and action among the Central Valley’s immigrant, migrant, refugee, and other communities of color.
FFSJ’s years of YPAR work left an indelible legacy, decolonizing research and data in Stockton and across California to reshape the built environment, redefine public safety, and help youth and adults envision and co-create a more just and equitable future.
Photo Credit: Bryan Patrick