In a groundbreaking collaboration, Project Rise Brothers joined forces with IYT's Brotherhood Action Committee (BAC) to advance their advocacy efforts. Over a span of 5 weeks, each brother underwent culturally responsive training to become youth advocates in the criminal justice reform movement. The partnership between Project Rise and BAC centered on comprehending the policy stances of various organizations striving to reform the criminal justice system. Brothers delved into the policy priorities of organizations like ACLU Cal Action, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Equal Justice Initiative, and National Harm Reduction Council, aiming to support rights restoration, expungement access, fair treatment of incarcerated individuals, and compassionate care for those battling substance abuse.
At the conclusion of the BAC sessions, the brothers engaged in a seminar-style discussion, reflecting on their learning journey and ways to actively bolster advocacy initiatives. Responding to prompts like "How can we transform the criminal justice system to counteract mass incarceration?" and "Why is it crucial to join advocacy groups championing policy change?", the brothers showcased their dedication to effecting positive change.
IYT member and Sac State-bound graduate, Jaylen shared this in reflecting on the program, "This experience has been enlightening. From all the sessions I attended, I learned how to file complaints against police, the rights I have, and how to be a young activist without breaking the law. Witnessing the growth among the BAC brothers has been remarkable too. They [now] know their own rights and could very possibly teach it to their friends and families with good understanding." In thinking about the important takeaways from the program, Jaylen said, "This program was very important to me, because now me and my brothers are able to defend ourselves from the law and may be able to make an impact on our communities."
The consensus among the brothers was that they felt a newfound confidence in their ability to navigate the criminal justice system, and how to become an advocate to improve the system. This partnership between Project Rise and BAC has undeniably accomplished its mission, equipping system-impacted brothers with vital knowledge and tools.