Tag Archives: racism

Just Communities’ Second Annual Social Equity Summit

Just Communities’ is hosting its second annual Social Equity Summit: “Anti-Racism Work Beyond the Statement” virtually on Thursday, May 13th.

For the past 20 years, Just Communities has leveraged the work of its committed staff, dedicated board and volunteers to empower others to incorporate social and language justice into their work, their interactions, and daily lives. 

“We readily acknowledge that our work alone doesn’t create social change. Rather, we equip students, teachers, school administrators, parents, businesspeople and community leaders with attitude-shifting information, tools, skills and establish support networks so they can turn their personal transformation into lasting social change. In short, we open doors to new awareness, sensitivity, advocacy and action so that others can not only walk through those doors themselves, but hold them open for others in their own communities.” – Fabiola Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Just Communities Development and Communications Manager 

Just Communities’ second annual Social Equity Summit will build upon this work by bringing together members of the Central Coast community from all sectors to learn and discuss how to move beyond condemning racism with public statements and social media posts to addressing everyday inequities and systemic racism in their own organizations and communities.

The keynote speaker, Gabrielle Felder (she/they), also known as Ifademilade Omotola Oosafunmilayo, is the sole educator, freelance graphic designer, social media artist behind the platform GFx Studios (@gfx_prints on Instagram). Originally from Orange County, California, Gabrielle completed her undergraduate education at University of California, Santa Barbara. She graduated in 2018 with honors, receiving two degrees: Ecology and Evolution, B.S. and Biological Anthropology, B.A. In June 2020, Gabrielle graduated from University of Washington School of Public Health with a Master’s in Environmental and Occupational Health. Gabrielle has forged her own path forward by creating a personal and professional career focused on environmental justice, critical race theory, and education. 

Gabrielle is a culture critic, educator, and digital activist focused on dismantling white supremacy to move toward Black liberation and indigenous sovereignty. Join Gabrielle and Just Communities for “Moving from Performative Action to Material Change” where she will discuss the 2020 response to George Floyd’s murder and how to move from short lived engagement to material change in the lives of Black people.

For a complete list of the workshops and to register, please visit: www.just-communities.org/social-equity-summit-2021

Tickets are $50, with available scholarships, please contact Melissa Patrino at (805) 966-2063 for more information. 

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

His Dream is Still Alive

As a young person in 1963, E. onja Brown got on a bus at W. 138th in Harlem bound for Washington, D.C., alone. 

Once there, she pushed her way up into the crowd assembled before the Lincoln Memorial to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. 

“People would let me go past them, because I looked like a kid,” Brown Lawson says. She made her way to the edge of the platform where Dr. King would give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. She was so close, in fact, that as she heard his words she reached up and held the hem of his coat. 

“I had never heard anyone that close to me speak like that,” Brown Lawson says. And when she, as a young black woman, was initially denied entry to the college of her choice because of the color of her skin, it was Dr. King’s voice that “carried” her “through the racism” she faced. 

Today, Ms. Brown Lawson is the President of Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara, a purely volunteer-run organization dedicated to fostering “positive relationships between the many diverse groups in the Santa Barbara Community and the surrounding areas; to sponsor programs and events which exemplify the teachings of Dr. King; and to observe and celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.”

(January 2017) (l-r) Poetry coordinator Melinda Palacio and Sojourner Kincaid Rolle along with MLKSB Essay and Poetry Contest Winners. MLK Jr holiday, MLKSB Morning Program at the Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA. (Photo by Rod Rolle)

The committee’s primary charge is producing four days of events across Isla Vista, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and the Santa Ynez Valley to celebrate the King holiday in January every year, since 2007. This year’s series of events included a kickoff at the eternal flame at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to celebrate Dr. King; the annual Unity March; and a culminating speech by civil rights icon and King contemporary Dr. James Lawson. 

Throughout the year, the committee works to ensure that Dr. King’s words and actions are known and contemplated by people across the community, particularly the young. For that reason, the MLK committee organizes an annual poetry and essay writing contest where elementary and high school students win cash prizes for poems and essays centered on a theme for the year, along with Dr. King’s life and teachings. 

Ms. Brown Lawson laments that the achievements of the Civil Rights era did not alleviate racism, but sees incredible hope in the young people the committee tries to connect to Dr. King’s legacy every day of the year. 

“Listening to his words that day gave me the courage and strength to persevere despite many obstacles,” Brown Lawson says. “And that is what I believe Dr. King can do for young people today… his voice, his passion, and his resolve is the essence of the kind of person he was and what he stood for. My hope is that the younger generation can understand how he is still relevant today.”