L.A.'s social justice epicenter since 1976

Brothers, Sons, Selves

Left to right: Cameron Williams, Alfonso Aguilar, Eddie Flores, Damien Valentine, Timothy Walker and Qadir Johnson campaigning for passage of Prop 47.

Brothers, Sons, Selves

L.A. needs its young people, each and every one of them. Today’s students and jobseekers—in all their rich diversity of ancestry, cultural background, and gender expression—are the leaders of tomorrow. Our future success depends on the opportunities available to young people right now. That’s why Liberty Hill is proud to continue Brothers, Sons, Selves—a partnership formed in 2012 by Liberty Hill, The California Endowment and a strong coalition of 11 Los Angeles grassroots community organizations.

Brothers, Sons, Selves is a coalition of community-based organizations from across Los Angeles County that are organizing and working with African American, Latino and Asian Pacific Islander youth in low income communities to address inequity through grassroots policy campaigns and leadership development. The members of the BSS Coalition are Children’s Defense Fund California, Community Coalition, Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network, InnerCity Struggle, Khmer Girls in Action, Labor/Community Strategy Center, the Social Justice Learning Institute, the Weingart East L.A. YMCA, and Youth Justice Coalition. The BSS Coalition is a strategic partnership of Liberty Hill Foundation and The California Endowment.

The Brothers, Sons, Selves coalition is now a national model for the transformative impact of community organizing on the lives of people affected by injustice. The coalition builds leadership skills among its youthful participants by engaging them in advocacy campaigns.

Why did President Obama want to meet and thank Brothers, Sons, Selves participants when he visited L.A. in August 2014? Because through their very first campaign for the "School Climate Bill of Rights," these young activists won a victory that served as a model for a similar effort in San Francisco, a statewide legislative campaign, and even as an example cited by the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. They had persuaded school officials to stop suspending students for “willful defiance,” a discredited discipline practice left over from failed “zero tolerance” policies that unfairly targeted African American and Latino young men. The new policy has resulted in a sharp drop in student suspensions, and both school districts are continuing to craft unified policies “to invest in learning, not incarceration.”

The Brothers, Sons, Selves partnership supports coalition organizations through grant investments, leadership development, technical support and alliance-building. Youth participants identify the policy changes to fight for and new practices to support through community-based, participatory research and community organizing. Our young men have been heard by elected officials, government agencies and voters. They have testified before State Senators and Assembly Members, and an honored few have been introduced to and thanked for their work by the President of the United States.

Photo: BSS retreat at Round Meadow.