Centinela Youth Services denounces police violence.
There are too many George Floyds who have senselessly lost their lives. In addition to lives lost, there are daily injustices and structures that perpetuate oppression. CYS values its partnerships with law enforcement and the justice system and schools as an opportunity to bring change and divert young people from harsh punitive punishments that do more harm than good. This work has also given us a front row seat to the attitudes, policies and practices in these institutions that perpetuate disproportionate treatment of communities of Color. Let’s be clear: This is not a matter of “a few bad apples.” This is an ingrained cultural and systemic issue. Just a few examples of what we regularly witness:
Peaked our heads in on a police academy training just in time to hear the instructor say, “follow any car long enough, you’ll find a reason to pull it over.”;
A school district official ordering an action that violates students’ educational rights, justifying it with “they don’t know their rights anyway.”;
A school district expelling a Black 11 year old boy for “Sexual Assault” for twerking at the school dance where they played the twerking song.;
A school police officer expressing his opinion about his students; “They are all thugs. All they care about are guns, drugs and money.;”
A juvenile detective stating, “I truly hate kids. I’m just here until I can retire in 17 months and 3 days.”;
When we called for assistance for a youth threatened by gang member with guns, the detective shrugged and said “Well, he probably deserves it.”;
A teacher yelling at her mostly Latino students, “you’re all a bunch of illegal aliens!”;
Over the years….scores of arrests of Black and Brown youth, simply trying to leave campus after feeling disrespected by a staff member. When campus security put hands on them to stop them from leaving, the student who reflexively pulls away is then charged with “resisting arrest or assault” though they were not committing any crime when grabbed.
As a community of concerned and socially-active citizens, many of us who volunteer or work for Centinela Youth Services view this time of grief as a time of opportunity — to broaden awareness of the imbalances and inequities we see, sharpen our focus on the healing work we do, and respond with meaningful and effective action to make true and lasting systemic change. While there are deep problems in these systems, there are also many very good and dedicated people in them. We owe it to the “good apples” to help in the heavy lift of culture change. With so many challenges and opportunities before us, we will bring you regular updates, ways to take action, profiles of volunteers and staff in action, and occasional opinions on issues and legislation affecting our mission and communities. We hope the news from CYS will contribute meaningfully to your practice, enrich your perspective on the mission, and unite us all in the work for a more just future for youth, their families, and those impacted by crime.
My thanks for your inspired involvement. Jessica Ellis, Executive Director