Investing in Youth Leadership to Rebuild a Better Bay Area

Investing in Youth Leadership to Rebuild a Better Bay Area

Young people are a powerful force for change in their communities and beyond. Their organizing has brought conversations related to equity to the political forefront, as they address critical issues, including community safety, educational equity, and climate change.

Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ, pronounced “courage”), is a nonprofit in Oakland that unlocks the leadership of young people who have been incarcerated. As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, youth organizers continue to lead the calls for change to our inequitable systems.

Through this uncertain time, CURYJ pivoted their programming, technology and outreach to continue to empower youth to take action against the systemic inequities that harm their communities.

The San Francisco Foundation’s Rapid Response Fund provides quick-turnaround funds to frontline social justice organizations that are strengthening the voice and power of residents living on low-incomes and people of color. CURYJ was able to tap this resource to respond to the needs of the community for digital organizing, keeping youth empowerment programs running, and to respond to the Anti-Asian violence that was happening in Oakland.

When the pandemic hit, CURYJ was strategically positioned to transition to digital organizing and have more impact on three priority issues: police-state violence; criminalization; and ending mass incarceration.

Our Rapid Response Fund support for CURYJ has strengthened our longstanding commitment to Bay Area youth. In 2020, our Rapid Response Fund grant helped CURYJ co-organize a series of large rallies, some that brought 15,000 people to the streets of Oakland, to demand justice for George Floyd and for people in the Bay Area impacted by police violence. For this critical community action, CURYJ empowered youth with organizing skills and training.

“It was our young people that were out there, and they were the fearless ones. They got it jump started,” said George Galvis, Executive Director of CURYJ. “I was sitting on the sofa watching CNN getting all these images and feeling powerless and depressed, and our young people called for this march … and I feel like I got my groove back.”

The protests became an intergenerational, interracial movement that helped redirect $18 million earmarked for policing to be invested in community-led solutions through the Oakland Department of Violence Prevention for de-escalation and crisis intervention.

SFF’s most recent Rapid Response Fund grant to CURYJ, in November 2021, allowed the organization to host “encuentros,” or meetings, with community that focused on the year’s spike in violence, the police budget, what it means to defund the police, and examples of community-based violence interruption and community healing.

We are proud to support CURYJ’s critical work in Oakland to help young people, especially those who have experienced harm of policing and prisons, to realize their voice and power to change unjust systems and have thriving, resourced communities.