The CDF Freedom Schools program is all about communities coming together to give children an unforgettable educational experience
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monthly newsletter

Dear Child Advocate,

Thanks in part to your calls and emails to lawmakers, several key pieces of legislation for California children and youth passed the California Legislature! Over the next several weeks, Governor Brown will make a final decision on whether to sign those bills into law. Please join us in urging the Governor to affirm that the lives and futures of our most vulnerable children matter by signing three bills:

  • SB 1143 to strictly limit the use of long-term isolation of youth in California's juvenile justice facilities. Take action »
  • SB 1052 to require children and youth consult with legal counsel before they waive their Miranda rights. Take action »
  • AB 1567 to improve access to afterschool for homeless and foster youth. Take action »
These bills are just one step away from becoming law. More than 400 youth leaders gathered at the Capitol this month to share their stories and urge lawmakers to take action at the #FreeOurDreams rally. Will you add your voice to demand justice for youth?

Alex M. Johnson
Executive Director | Children's Defense Fund - California

top story

The most important lesson of all

Some students wrote poetry about freedom and voting rights, while others expressed themselves musically through original raps and music composition. But all students who participated in CDF Freedom Schools this summer learned about the importance of believing in yourself and the power of reading.

“At CDF Freedom Schools, we learn that we are beautiful and smart,” said 9-year-old Madison Franklin, who was a scholar at Read Lead’s Girl Club of Los Angeles/Faith Children’s Center site.

Approximately 1,700 students participated in 27 CDF Freedom Schools across the state this summer. In addition to the intensive reading curriculum, our scholars participated in a variety of activities including photography, dancing, sports, art as well as field trips to local universities and museums.

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Join us

Children’s Defense Fund-California is effective in large part because of the commitment and energy of our dedicated partners and individual supporters. Please show your commitment to our nation’s children, our future, by making a donation to support our efforts.

featured updates

Governor signs law to decriminalize youth for riding transit without fare

Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 882 by Senator Bob Hertzberg to prohibit youth from being charged with a criminal violation for riding public transit without fare. The law, sponsored by CDF-CA, Western Center on Law & Poverty and Youth Justice Coalition, will take effect on January 1, 2017. The victory is a critical step to reduce the over-criminalization of children and youth in California.
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Working hard, playing hard

Last month CDF-CA participated in two excursions to strengthen the movements for boys and men of color, and women and girls of color. At The California Endowment's annual Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat, we supported our young woman leaders as they explored gender and racial justice topics, learned social justice movement building, and tested their teambuilding and fearlessness on the ropes courses. Then, we headed to the fifth annual Sons and Brothers Camp in Portola, California with 150 boys and young men of color, mentors, and elders to build the capacity of young men to become effective community leaders on issues of health and social justice.
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Youth converge on Sacramento to #FreeOurDreams

Nearly 500 youth and adult allies – including CDF-CA youth leaders from Long Beach – made their voices heard in Sacramento this month. After a weekend summit, the youth participated in a youth-led rally, shared their stories at a legislative hearing of the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, and advocated for key legislation to support justice, health, safety and success for youth during meetings with 110 legislative offices.
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New staff: Dominique Nong

CDF-CA is proud to announce the hiring of Dominique Nong, the newest addition to our juvenile justice team. As senior policy associate, Dominique will be responsible for CDF-CA's work on juvenile justice reform, focusing especially in Los Angeles County - which has the largest probation and jail system in the nation - and increasing opportunity, momentum and consensus on the need for systemic and cultural reforms for justice-involved youth.
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in the spotlight

Youth Action Scholar
Maria Gonzalez considered herself an introvert. She was withdrawn and reluctant to take the lead or speak her mind openly about any topic. Then she met Omar Cardenas, a youth organizer with Children’s Defense Fund – California who came to her high school every week and spoke with students about ways to improve their educational experience. Those Tuesday meetings were a part of CDF-CA’s Youth Organizing Long Beach program and became Maria’s catalyst for change.
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staff book recs

Omar Cardenas,
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Juno Diaz
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao follows Oscar Wao, a kind-hearted but introverted Dominican-American who dreams of becoming a famous writer and finding true love. Oscar has the energy and talents to achieve his dreams; however, his path is continually stymied by an ancient spirit that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations. Set in both New Jersey and Santo Domingo, this epic novel explores the importance of cultural identity and the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of hardship.
Janis Lambert Connallon
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin
Pride and Prejudice is all about overcoming other people’s expectations. Elizabeth Bennet, the main character, refuses to limit herself to stereotypical frivolities of class and gender of Regency-Era England. She stands up to powerful forces - forces that conventional wisdom would have her yield to without question. She speaks truth to power and gets away with it—because she is right. Lizzie is far from perfect; yet, in the end, she realizes her mistakes, corrects her course, and moves on. Every time I read it, I find more depth to it. Every generation remakes Lizzie Bennett in their own image - her character is timeless and always relevant. We named our daughter, Claire Elizabeth - hoping a little of that inner strength, wisdom, and character would rub off on her.
Hanif Houston
The Crystal Text, Clarke Coolidge
“To grasp the relation of words to matter, / mind, process, may be the greatest task,” Clark Coolidge writes in his book-length poem, The Crystal Text. For the next 144 pages, the author explores this relation as he documents his prolonged engagement with a piece of quartz crystal. For ten months, the crystal sits on a table and the author sits facing it, attempting to listen to the crystal and to write the poetry that comes from it. The poem is composed of many short sections, each of suggests a diary entry, the work of one sitting, a single facet in the poem’s expanding crystal. These sections are sites of refraction in the multifaceted consciousness of the author, whose desire “to hear the one thing speak that / cannot speak” and “to know the things that can’t be known” take him on a journey to the inner recesses of language, and the remotest borders of subjectivity.

news roundup

Aug 10, 2016 | The Sacramento Bee

Bills would help end criminalization of youths

All it took was a typical schoolyard brawl to change David Celedon’s young life. Local police wrongfully labeled the fight a gang-related incident, leading to his expulsion and placement in a remedial school he hated. Now this Santa Ana youth fears he was put into CalGang, a secretive statewide tracking system that allows law enforcement to label someone as a gang member without that person’s knowledge or formal proof, and with little recourse to challenge this designation. Read more ...

Aug 9, 2016 | Capital Public Radio

Calif. considers new limits on juvenile solitary confinement

The California Legislature is considering new limits on when children in juvenile corrections facilities can enter solitary confinement. Democratic Senator Mark Leno says solitary confinement is inhumane, and his bill would prohibit it except in extreme circumstances. Read more ...
Aug 3, 2016 | Los Angeles Sentinel

California committee assembles to address the education system

On July 29, the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys & Men of Color in California (ASCSBMCC) convened at the California African American Museum (CAAM) for a briefing to discuss whether the education system is addressing the needs of boys and men of color in California. Read more ...
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