Hearts & Hands -- A Pathway to Authentic Community

I am pleased to report that Hearts & Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times will be the core curriculum in a newly certified staff training program for State of California juvenile detention centers, halls, and camps.

The Seven Stories Press book was first published in 2001 and summarizes the almost 30 years of work I've had with youth, gangs, community building, men's work, and justice work.

Drawing from ideas as old as the oldest stories, to some of the best findings in current practices among community youth advocates, Hearts & Hands is a call for imagination, connection, caring, vision, and hope in a political environment that abandons youth, removes vital creative resources from schools and the economy, blames the family and the youth themselves, and then creates massive prisons and juvenile facilities as the only means to address the breakdown of adequate and whole sustenance -- spiritual and physical -- for all of us.

The actual program that has been certified is called "Conflict Management Training: Breaking the Cycle with Dignity," created by Fidel Rodriguez of K.R.Y.L.O.N-13 Educational Initiative (he's also with Divine Forces Radio and co-owner of Imix Bookstore in Eagle Rock, CA) and Michael de la Rocha of the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall Superintendent Edward Anhalt was instrumental in seeing this program off the ground and eventually certified. My hats off to this open and courageous leader in youth transformation work in some of the most dire circumstances -- youth detention centers.

The program utilizes spiritual practices (yoga, meditation, indigenous, African, and others) and deep rage/grief work with staff members in our juvenile facilities so that they become the real advocates and activists for the youth themselves. It also includes work with the youth in those facilities, supported by and sustained by staff.

I took part in three of the six-month trainings this year first held at the Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, CA. Youth probation superintendents and staff from LA County probation camps, juvenile halls, and gang units were also involved. All participants were encouraged to buy Hearts & Hands and read various chapters throughout the training. Guest facilitators included Luisah Teish, a long-time African American spiritual leader and community activist from the Bay area.

I hope this becomes a major step to injecting imagination, deep soul and spirit work, and mentoring/eldership into places where our most troubled youth need it the most. I'm honored to be part of this immensely vital work.


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