This month we dedicate our newsletter to our high school graduates and all the mothers who have supported the development of our babies through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.
Safe Passages supports a continuum of programs and services beginning with Early Childhood and continuing through college and career. This month we celebrate all of the youth graduating from high school from our family of programs. We understand that this is no small accomplishment given our context of generational poverty, historical oppression, and institutionalized inequities that challenge youth of color every day of their lives. Despite the context, our graduates have demonstrated the extraordinary resiliency to navigate through a complex and sometimes unforgiving education system with the tenacity needed to beat the odds.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. For those of us who work in human services, mental health has long been considered as critical to individual and collective success as physical health. We live in a world that challenges us everyday. We strive to overcome these challenges and thrive. However, our often-hostile environments create an abundance of toxic stress that must be actively combated to improve health and life outcomes.
The trauma experienced in our communities is profound on a historical level and remains palpable. Trauma and toxic stress produce negative mental and physical health outcomes, poor economic outcomes, and severely limit our educational achievement. The constant micro and macro aggressions faced by communities of color, women, LBGTQ, immigrant, and refugee communities inflict a heavy toll on our psyche and our bodies. Intersectionality and poverty compounds this impact exponentially.
Throughout history our communities have proven to be resilient, but we cannot ignore the need for accessible mental health services and nontraditional mental health approaches that build on the cultural assets embedded in our communities. Culturally effective mental health approaches should aim to strengthen our individual, family, and community resiliency to break the cycles of dependency and counter the oppressive historical narrative that negatively impacts our well-being.
Over the last two decades, Safe Passages has fought to increase the accessibility of mental health services and to innovate new culturally responsive approaches to improving mental health in the communities we serve. In addition to securing resources to strengthen the safety net for vulnerable children, youth, and families, we implement culturally responsive strategies in our Baby Learning Communities Collaborative Program, School Linked Services, and Law and Social Justice initiatives. Most recently, Safe Passages was selected by the California Public Health Department’s Office of Health Equity to participate in the California Reducing Disparities Project. The goal of the project is to address the toxic stress experienced by African American youth and improve their mental health outcomes.
As we continue our pursuit of social justice and actively work toward better outcomes for youth and families in our communities, let us maintain a steady focus on improving mental health practices and accessibility to effective mental health services.
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.
Josefina’s Letter- The Intergenerational Power of Women
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The Intergenerational Power of Women
March 28, 2018
March is Women’s History Month, and we have a lot to celebrate. Our power as women is intergenerational. We treasure the incredible, hard-fought legacy gifted to us by the amazing women who came before us. In my own family, my grandmother was a Rosie the Riveter who worked in the San Francisco shipyards during World War II. She later fought gentrification in San Francisco. My mother was a Chicana activist who struggled in the Third World Strike at San Francisco State that lead to the creation of Ethnic Studies. And now, my daughter is practicing her advocacy skills and articulating her vision for a just society through her art and writing. Every family is built on the backbone of strong women who sacrifice, and these sacrifices contribute to the betterment of our communities.
Several movements, including the #MeToo movement, and the student-led gun control movement, are reminding all of us of the intergenerational power of women. These movements also serve to remind us that we must have a major role in dismantling the status quo that disempowers us, and disrupting all the voices that try to silence us.
As Women of Color, we exist in the intersectionality of our experience in a manner that is rich beyond explanation. We are brilliant, powerful, and talented within each generation. We must control our minds, bodies, and voices. And, we must demand this month and every month that our cultural, social, and historical experience drives the social justice agenda in an equitable and formidable way.
We are humbled by the present and historical sacrifice of women around the world who continuously give of themselves to make our world a better place for all of us.
And, we send all of our good wishes to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who at 83 is holding it down until we reach a better tomorrow.
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.
Safe Passages AmeriCorps – Serving the Community & Preparing for the Future
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A huge thank you to our very own AmeriCorps VISTA member Jonathan Smith for lending his talent to create this video highlighting the wonderful work of Safe Passages’ AmeriCorps volunteers!