Youth For Justice Has a Million Reasons to Stay in the Fight

YFJ logo 2021Alcohol Justice’s Youth For Justice (YFJ) program has always strived to plant seeds of positive change in San Rafael’s Canal District. As the recipients of a new million-dollar grant, YFJ can run its roots deep, providing expansive programming for the youth of the community for years to come.

The funding comes from Elevate Youth, a grantmaking project under the Sierra Foundation, which disburses prevention funds from California’s cannabis taxes. The money is dedicated to promoting youth leadership programs in the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs, notably low-income BIPOC communities. The Canal—where Alcohol Justice is located—is one of these districts, with 73% of residents identifying as Hispanic, and a median household income of $40,000 per year—only 40% that of San Rafael as a whole.

The funds go to support YFJ’s unceasing efforts to provide prevention education, community space, and leadership opportunities for the Canal’s youth. The program is based on a “Four-Pillar” model, developed by YFJ director Maite Durán. The pillars comprise Health and Healing, Nature Connection, Culture and History of Latino/Indigenous Peoples, and Community Organizing to Prevent Alcohol and Other Drug Harm.

YFJ 2020The ongoing programming includes exploring emotions and identity through art, cooking, gardening, and engagement with the natural environment of Marin, as well as mingas. Derived from an indigenous Kichwa word for a day of collective volunteer work, the mingas gather the YFJ staff and participants together to engage in community cleanups and beautifications. By removing trash, and particularly drug- and alcohol-related litter, the kids both develop pride in their neighborhood and reduce the normalization of substance use.

This positive energy can be used for more aggressive change as well. On multiple occasions, the kids who make up YFJ have organized to push back against harmful alcohol industry practices. The kids have assessed the sales environment of alcohol licensees in San Rafael, picketed stores that sell the most harmful products, and persuaded liquor stores in the community to agree to make the Canal an “alcopop-free zone.”

Alcohol Justice was one of 61 community and tribal organizations to receive funding from Sierra. The grant runs for the next three years.

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