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What happens when young Latino and Native men — so often targeted by Oakland’s gang injunction ordinances and immigration enforcement and harmed by gentrification — design violence prevention strategies?

They plant seeds in abandoned lots, beautify their neighborhood with murals, reclaim culture and celebrate the release of their research project, the foto-novela Forgotten Voices.

On Cinco de Mayo, join young men from the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland in collaboration with Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) and the Pacific Institute, at Eastside Arts Alliance for a community celebration that connects historical resistance and contemporary organizing. Along with free copies of the report, enjoy live music, Danza Azteca, food and community.

Just as the people of Puebla repelled the French occupation of Mexico in 1862, youth and residents of the Fruitvale are organizing to expel the violent practices of criminalization and neighborhood displacement. Forgotten Voices was created by community researchers, young men from the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. The comic-book-style story follows a group of young men as they navigate the day to day challenges of violence, criminalized school settings, gentrification and aggressive policing. Propelled by their experiences, the story culminates with the men organizing the Youth Empowerment Zone Project.

The story however, is real-life. The researchers, CURYJ and the Pacific Institute are currently working to develop a comprehensive peace-development strategy over the coming 3 to 5 years using participatory research tools (focus groups, mapping community treasures and peer interviews) with numerous local organizations.

Forgotten Voices is compelling documentation of how to build healthy communities and bottom-up power.

These aren’t top-down ordinances, but solutions from the ground up that reflect the patterns in the youths’ shared experiences,” says George Galvis, co-founder and director of CURYJ

It carries the voices and visions of those most affected.

It’s about healing – not about punishment – because what’s valued is sustaining community and family ties,” adds Catalina Garzón of the Pacific Institute. Gentrification and the increasing housing costs are destabilizing communities. We need to be innovative and creative about how we address root causes of violence and stability in communities most impacted by gang injunctions.”

Forgotten Voices is accompanied by Unnecessary Policing of Our Safest Generation, a policy brief by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. In an era of youth crime decline, the publication examines research on current policing practices, such as stop and frisk, while highlighting their negative impact on our communities. It also highlights alternative approaches to address youth crime with concluding recommendations that promote better outcomes for youth and improve public safety.

Come get a copy of Forgotten Voices, and get involved in the next stages of the Empowerment Zone.