13 Jun Ending the Pipeline to Prison for Our Youth
An Interview With Kafi Blumenfield
Liberty Hill, which has been supporting nonprofit organizations on the front lines of change in Los Angeles for 36 years, is bringing together community organizations to reverse outdated policies that drive young men from schools and into prisons. Kafi Blumenfield is the president and CEO of Liberty Hill.
Why is Liberty Hill involved in work to improve the lives of low-income youth and youth of color?
As the mother to a young boy, I understand successful, thriving young people must be nurtured. A healthy growing-up checklist includes caring adults, safe places to play, good teachers, a good school and the opportunity to get a job. Yet many young people in Los Angeles and throughout California, especially young men of color – including African American, Latino, Asian and Native American males – do not have access to these resources where they grow up.
California’s future prosperity depends on all Californians having a fair chance to thrive and succeed. As our state becomes more diverse, it will be critical to nurture and harness the talent and skills of low-income young people.
Can you give us examples of this kind of work?
• In March, we joined with Community Coalition and other organizations to organize a California State Assembly committee hearing of elected officials with an overflow crowd of more than 500, mostly young
men, who testified eloquently and passionately about the challenges they face to their success.
• The Labor/Community Strategy Centerhelped change a school police policy that was punishing students with $250 truancy tickets for being five minutes late, pushing kids out of school instead of keeping them in the classroom.
• InnerCity Struggle, which has fought for years to relieve school overcrowding on the Eastside, recently announced the opening of a wellness center at Torres High School. Students will be able to receive physical and mental wellness services so they can get treatment and support rather than punishment and stay focused on their academics.
• CADRE, a parent organizing group, is bringing to South L.A. the national movement to reform school discipline policies to help keep students in the classrooms rather than drive them out. We are confident that investment in community organizing can reverse policies that have penalized young men instead of putting them on a path to healthy and successful futures.
We are confident that investment in community organizing can reverse policies that have penalized young men instead of putting them on a path to healthy and successful futures.