Brothers, Sons, Selves Retreat Life-Changing Experience for Young Men of Color

by Anonymous (not verified) on December 12, 2014

BSS Retreat_4Last month, 40 young men from the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, a Liberty Hill campaign co-created in partnership with The California Endowment to improve the lives of young men, spent the weekend in Big Bear for a life-changing retreat.  The goals of the weekend were to grow the bonds between youth leaders, share BSS history and wins and settle on priorities for 2015. That was accomplished  and so much more!

The weekend started by allowing each coalition organization to share an artifact that was significant to their work. Each artifact was placed in the middle of the circle to visually represent the coalition.  In the course of this session, one youth leader said, “Prior to getting involved with Brotherhood Crusade, I couldn’t tell you who the mayor of Los Angeles was. But if you took me anywhere in LA, I’d be able to tell you who’s ‘hood I was in.” This same young man said that he’d found a new family with Brotherhood Crusade and aspired to now become an aviation technician.

BSS Retreat_1 Artifact sharing exercise









Youth leaders also participated in team-building activities that included climbing a rock wall, navigating a ropes course, and zip-lining. On the zipline, one youth leader, Jamar, was too afraid to get on and started to make his way back to the landing area. Before he could return to the landing area, his  peers encouraged him to return and face his fear. With the support and chanting of his peers, Jamar conquered his fear and went on the zip-line!







Throughout the weekend, young man after young man shared their story and experiences, which ranged from overcoming violence in their neighborhoods or rising above the low expectations of their communities, and it became evident that this is the passion that fuels their participation in the BSS work.  By the end of the weekend, youth leaders shared how they had found a new family and created bonds that would last a lifetime.

One youth leader named Yordy Cancino was moved to express his thoughts on how important the BSS Retreat was to him.

yordy-simplepic Youth Leader Yordy Cancino

First a little about Yordy.   He is a youth leader who worked to transform his high school and his city of Los Angeles as the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club President at Animo Jackie Robinson High School. A GSA Network alum from the class of 2011, Yordy had lived in California since he was a child and gone to school here since elementary.

As a GSA president, he was a trained leader who graduated as salutatorian and would have qualified for higher education. Unfortunately, officials in his high school did not provide him information about college opportunities, including the Dream Act that grants students in California the right to higher education. While living in California as a student leader, Yordy regularly spoke out for LGBTQ rights, but because he was unable to attend college or attain a job, he returned to Mexico where he faced violence and cruelty for being gay.  Bravely seeking asylum in the U.S. , he was put into a youth detention center and only after a nationwide social media campaign, was he released.

According to Yordy, his involvement with Brothers, Sons, Selves has been life-changing.  “Being part of the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition has changed my life in many different ways. Like this November, attending our retreat I was able to express my authentic self and be accepted by all my coalition brothers from partner-organizations. We discussed the topics which affect our communities on a daily basis and shared feedback, talking about how we as a coalition can change the current laws that negatively impact and destroy families and our neighborhoods.”

GSAN-Yordy (Fourth from the left) Yordy Cancino speaks during the BSS Retreat

"I look forward to working this year along side my coalition brothers,” Yordy continued, “to fight against the school-to-prison-immigration-pipeline that continues to divide our communities. We as brothers of BSSC hold hands together and stand tall with no fear when it comes to justice; we keep pushing ourselves as one to fight for change, for equality and integrity for all. And this is why I’m happy to represent and be able to create change in a safe space.”

The members of the BSS coalition are Brotherhood Crusade, Californians for Justice, Centro Community Hispanic Association, Children’s Defense Fund California, Community Coalition, Gay/Straight Alliance Network, InnerCity Struggle, Khmer Girls in Action, Labor/Community Strategy Center, the Social Justice Learning Institute, the Weingart East LA YMCA, and Youth Justice Coalition. The BSS Coalition is a strategic partnership of Liberty Hill Foundation and The California Endowment.