Today would have been my dad’s 81st birthday. The holidays were always a hard time of year for us. My dad had to convince my brother and I that love and family were more important than presents. While our friends showed off their new toys, we were trained to show off how much my dad loved us. The funny thing is, it worked. Even as a 10 year old, I saw how love, people, and our shared responsibility to each other, are the most important things in the world.
I’m writing this at the end of my first week as CEO and President at Liberty Hill, one of the nation’s leading social justice foundations. Over these five days, one of the things that has struck me most powerfully is the extraordinary people who call Liberty Hill home: community leaders with courage and strategic smarts second to none and donor activists with a commitment to building power from the grassroots up.
Earlier this week I attended a HOPE (Hispanas Organized for Political Empowerment) event celebrating my former colleague Ana Guerrero, who as Mayor Garcetti’s Chief of Staff, is the nation’s first Latina big city mayoral chief of staff. It reminded me how often L.A. plays a “first-in-the-nation” role. It also reminded me that a decade ago, Liberty Hill began to turn our attention to combining grassroots hustle and electoral muscle. This year we saw a significant number of legislative and policy wins. It’s an incredibly impressive list of legislative victories and proof that the seeds we planted in 2004 are bearing fruit!
I’m eager for all of us to get busy in 2014. I’ve got my eye on a couple of developments.
Our Brothers Sons Selves campaign will be looking to implement our victories on school discipline in the L.A. and Long Beach school districts this year.
We hope to see progress on immigration reform. While those decisions will be made in Washington DC, much of the momentum for that campaign has come from L.A.-based immigrant rights groups working for years to build the political will for comprehensive immigration reform.
A few days ago, the grants review committee for our Queer Youth Fund, one of Liberty Hill’s largest funds and now in its 11th year, began to discuss the aims of the fund and the 2014 grants to support LGBT young people. QYF has built an incredible legacy of investment and impact. You can see a list of all our blog posts about this remarkable fund here.
This is a time to remember what’s most important! Thank you for your support for Liberty Hill. I look forward to working together.
My wife and I wish you a very happy holiday season! We will be enjoying it with our two boys. Hope you will also be holding close the people who are near and dear to you!
On November 15, elected officials, community organizations, parents, and youth convened for the State Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color’s Briefing on school accountability measures. The panelists not only included Assemblymember Steven Bradford, chair of the Select Committee but also youth speakers from the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition managed by Liberty Hill, Superintendent Steinhauser, and Keric Ashley from California’s Department of Education.
The purpose of the briefing was to generate policy ideas for the Assembly to consider. From this briefing, community members urged Assembly members to support legislation that extends summer programs that combat the summer slump and keep students learning. Youth speaker, Walter Brown opened with remarks about his experience as a young man of color. Brown shared how he left home to serve his country at war only to return to war in his own neighborhood. Brown highlighted that children in Long Beach suffer from more Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder than those children in war-torn countries. Brown urged the elected and community to continue to make the revolutionary changes needed to improve how systems treat our boys and men of color (BMoC).
Throughout the afternoon, youth speaker after youth speaker shared similar stories of the circumstances they faced as boys and men of color as a result of living in unhealthy environments and making bad choices. This includes pressure to join gangs, succumbing to an abundance of liquor stores, and being pushed out of school due to harsh discipline policies. Yet each of these stories ended with youth expressing how they were able to change the course of their life and thrive with the help and support of mentors and community organizations.
With each of these stories, it is clear that boys and men of color can succeed when they are given the opportunity. Keric Ashley, Analysis Director of California’s Department of Education, highlighted how the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) has added subgroup data to school accountability measures that will help to track performance gaps and better track graduation rates, dropout rates, and suspension and expulsion rates by race. This data has and will continue to shine a light on ways to improve the outcomes for BMoC and other disenfranchised groups.
Superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), Chris Steinhauser, shared that LCFF will provide Long Beach schools with $13 million more which will help the district to continue to fund interventions like the Male Academy, targeted to help young men achieve more in school. Furthermore, the resolution on school discipline passed by LBUSD in October urges schools to develop alternatives to suspensions and keep students on the path towards academic success.
Ultimately, the briefing underscored the fact that boys and men of color face unique circumstances and we must continue to find ways to improve the outcomes of these young men because every student deserves an opportunity to thrive.
What are we thankful for this Thanksgivukkah? Let us count the many things we fought hard for and won in 2013.
Better wages! AB241, a cornerstone of efforts to strengthen labor protections, was signed into law guaranteeing overtime pay for domestic workers! Tipped restaurant workers won an increase in the minimum wage.
Keep kids in school! The L.A. and Long Beach School boards passed resolutions to ban suspensions for non-serious offenses and to implement alternative discipline practices to help keep kids in school.
Licenses for all drivers! Many Liberty Hill funded leaders fought long and hard for the right to have a driver’s license for undocumented immigrants and the new “Trust Act” which prohibits a law enforcement official from detaining an individual on the basis of a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that person becomes eligible for release from custody.
Juvenile justice! Two big wins! SB 260 will allow young people who were tried as adults and sentenced to more than 10 years to petition to have their sentence reviewed for re-sentencing. SB458 closes a loophole that allowed children as young as 10 years old to be added to the CalGang database with no legal requirement that their parents or guardians be notified of their inclusion. Parents may also appeal the inclusion of their child in the database.
Mutual respect! The L.A.Times, after meeting with transgender advocates, agreed to revise its terminology guide to ensure better coverage of the transgender community.
Housing for low income families! Housing advocates completed financing for affordable housing in Koreatown, while on the Westside, a preservation agreement was reached for the Holiday Venice apartments that will allow current families the first right of ownership.
More green space! $5 million was secured to build a 4 acre park in one of L.A.’s most park-poor areas.
Transgender equality! AB1266 requires public schools to allow access to facilities and activities that match students’ gender activity.
We are pleased to announce that the Liberty Hill Foundation’s 2014 Fund for Change is now accepting Letters of Inquiry for the 2014 grant cycle. The Fund for Change is Liberty Hill’s primary competitive grantmaking program. Our goal is to make systemic change by funding community organizing to advance economic justice, environmental justice, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) justice in Los Angeles County.
Two informational Webinars are being offered to provide important information and updates regarding the 2014 Fund for Change guidelines and application process: Friday, December 6, 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. and Wednesday, December 11, 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.Please follow this link to RSVP. Please help us get the word out by distributing this announcement widely to individuals and organizations so that interested parties may apply. Here is a simple text that you can drop into your Facebook to spread the word!
“Liberty Hill Foundation is pleased to announce that their 2014 Fund for Change is now accepting Letters of Intent (LOI) for their 2014 grant cycle. If you are interested in applying please go to http://www.libertyhill.org/2014fundforchange, where you can find more information on how to apply. The Fund for Change goal is to make systemic change by funding community organizing to advance economic, environmental, and LGBTQ justice in Los Angeles County.”