Tag Archives: discrimination

Dismantling Racism on the Central Coast

In 2008, Fabiola Gonzalez-Gutierrez took part in Just Communities’ intensive CommUnity Leadership Institute designed to teach up to 40 local high school students about all the “isms” that get in the way of social justice.

“All my experiences with racism and classism had been private,” Gonzalez-Gutierrez says. “For the first time those experiences were welcomed and supported. As a young person you need that validation, to know that you are not alone.”

Ten years later, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, Gonzalez-Gutierrez came to work for the nonprofit that had opened her eyes a decade before.

That nonprofit, Just Communities, “advances justice by building leadership, fostering change, and dismantling all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.”

Its staff of five helps youth, educators, and families through cultural competency trainings for organizational leaders, running education seminars for the general public, and producing leadership training institutes for students and teachers.

Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Just Communities’ Development and Communications Manager, and Executive Director Melissa Rodezno-Patrino point to the outcome of a recent student seminar at a local Santa Barbara high school. There, students serving on-campus suspensions had to do so in the cafeteria. At lunchtime they were made to eat their lunches facing the wall. “It was dehumanizing,” Gonzalez-Gutierrez says.

As part of the Just Communities’ model the students gave a presentation to the principal. That was in August. Come September, when school started, the practice had been dismantled.

Rodezno-Patrino likens this example to the greater “sense of awakening” about racial injustice gripping the country. “Once you know what is happening there is no way to go back,” she says. “We at Just Communities have always had this conversation. We are not a regular nonprofit where you are treating the ailment with a band-aid. We are treating it directly.”

Every year the staff serves more than 400 young people and adults throughout the region. And every day they are hearing from new organizations looking for tools to dismantle racism in their work. For nearly 20 years, Just Communities has been doing just that

A Global Challenge

It has always been important to recognize that injustice and discrimination occurs in the United States and not only in far off lands. 

Over the past decade, Human Rights Watch – among the world’s leading human rights organizations – has poured its experience, energy, and incredible potency into combating domestic threats to the rights of everyone in the United States.

Whether working to ban child marriage in Florida, helping to ensure that juveniles can’t get sentenced to life without parole, or stopping traumatic family separations at the southern border, Human Rights Watch is there – advocating for good, and making positive change.

Across the globe, Human Rights Watch’s roughly 450 researchers, lawyers, journalists, and advocates relentlessly defend human rights. They do this by rigorously investigating abuses, exposing their findings through unparalleled media attention, and then driving change by advocating to governments and organizations – dismantling systems of oppression and uplifting entire populations.

HRW’s impact is immense. The organization won a Nobel Peace Prize for its work with partner organizations to ban landmines, establish the International Criminal Court to bring the world’s worst warlords to justice, and elevate global standards to improve the lives of women, children, and the vulnerable around the world.

At a time when the challenges facing our community and our world can feel overwhelming, we need an organization ready and able to face them head on. We need Human Rights Watch.

“At this inflection point in human history, we have an extraordinary window of opportunity to make bold, transformational change,” says Lis Leader, the Director of Human Rights Watch Santa Barbara.

As a filmmaker who travelled the world producing documentaries for National Geographic, PBS, and the BBC, Leader witnessed “some unbearably heartbreaking visions of human suffering.” So when local writer, philanthropist, and activist Vicki Riskin suggested she lead HRW’s recently established committee in 2014, Leader didn’t hesitate.

For Leader, the connection between an HRW researcher working to end child marriage in Yemen, and the needs of Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable are all the same.

“Although we are a global organization, we make positive change on a community level,” Leader says. HRW Santa Barbara regularly hosts civic dialogues with key figures from its deep bench of programmatic staff who bring global and domestic issues home to the Central Coast.

The organization is now engaged in a “global challenge” meant to create “the future we want,” HRW proclaims. Leader and the Santa Barbara Committee invite you to stand with HRW as it faces some of the most dire threats to humanity here and abroad.