Fifteen Years After Oscar Grant’s Death, a Center Near the Site of the Killing Focuses on Youth Empowerment

Fifteen Years After Oscar Grant’s Death, a Center Near the Site of the Killing Focuses on Youth Empowerment

Charity Whyte is SFF’s grant lead for CURYJ. This blog post is in remembrance and reverence of the lives and legacy of Oscar Grant, Banko Brown, Erik Salgado, Sheila Detoy, Mario Gonzalez, Mike Barrera, Steven Taylor, Lorenzo Cruz, and many other BIPOC youth recently murdered by police or security guards in our region. May they rest in peace and power, and love.

As a proud Oakland resident, I deeply understand the essential role that Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) plays in our community. In October, I had the opportunity to visit CURYJ’s newest project, the Oscar Grant Youth Power Zone, alongside my colleagues, like-minded funders, and donors. The Oscar Grant Youth Power Zone is a 7,000-foot space in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood that, when complete, will serve as a model for community-led public safety, an urban retreat space focused on violence prevention, and a home for youth leadership programs. “The Youth Power Zone will be a transformative place, just like Oscar’s life and legacy,” says Xochtil Larios, CURYJ Youth Justice Coordinator and formerly incarcerated youth leader. “Young people will thrive here!”

Named after a young Black man who was murdered on New Year’s Day in 2009 by a police officer at the Fruitvale BART station, the project is led by CURYJ. CURYJ is a Native-led SFF grantee that offers leadership development opportunities for young BIPOC people including life coaching, professional development, political education, and hands-on involvement in policy and grassroots community campaigns. “It is our duty to take care of our young people so when they enter and leave this space, they feel sacred and know they are surrounded by a culture of care, accountability, and safety,” says George Galvis, CURYJ co-founder and Executive Director.

To complete construction of the project, CURYJ has launched a $3.6 million capital campaign. SFF, together with East Bay Community Foundation, Akonadi Foundation, and The California Endowment, are all serving as philanthropic partners to the project, which still needs to raise $420,000 before reaching its goal.

In October, SFF donors and team members had the opportunity to tour the project, where we heard from formerly incarcerated young BIPOC women who shared the ways that CURYJ’s programs have empowered their work as organizers, and elevated their voices, as well as their advocacy skills. Rico Pabón, CURYJ Life Coach and artist, performed a powerful spoken word poem entitled, “Till the Walls Fall.” This incredibly moving piece brought many of us to tears and felt like a soulful anthem and call to action to build a more equitable society where BIPOC youth can thrive, be safe from police violence, and “dream beyond bars.” The visit showcased CURYJ’s expertise in addressing the root causes of inequity and cultivating alternatives to incarceration through community safety and care.

SFF is proud to support CURYJ in creating spaces that empower young people, prevent their incarceration, keep them safe, and provide them with economic opportunities. We invite other donors and funders to support the Oscar Grant Youth Power Zone to move our society away from youth incarceration by investing in safe spaces for young leaders to thrive.