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As racial divisiveness in America’s urban, rural and suburban communities rises today, we must work to heal the wounds created by racial, ethnic, religious and other forms of bias and build safe and thriving communities for all children and families.

Today, on a National Day of Healing, let’s reflect internally and externally upon how we - as individuals and organizations - can renew and strengthen our commitment to dismantling systems of oppression, building bridges, and continuing the progress we have made toward racial justice.

 “As a nation, we must come to terms with the deep divides in our communities,” said W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron.  “Our nation is crying out for healing, which can only come with shared understanding of our collective past and a sustained effort to dismantle the structures, policies, practices and systems that divide us, and perpetuate conscious and unconscious bias.”

Today at the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), we would like to share what racial healing looks like for us:


Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.

We are all watching, as nearly every federal governmental system is being led by individuals who want to see those systems fail (DOE, DOJ, DOL, EPA, HUD, HHS), and through the Orwellian chaos, I am reminded that these same systems have been failing my community for several centuries. And somehow, we –queer communities of color— always find ways to survive, organize and fight for the visibility of our worth. Now more than ever, I am encouraged by the organic creation of eco-systems of liberation by queer youth who have always had to fill in the gaps, when government systems have failed our community.

A recent manifestation of the eco-system concept was an event that the getR.E.A.L Initiative co-sponsored and put on by the Keeping Ballroom Community Alive Network (KBCAN). KBCAN launched their second annual Ballroom Symposium, as they organized the Ballroom community to envision a world where queer communities of color are liberated through unapologetic radical love, self-mobilization and transformative healing. The Ballroom Symposium was inspiring, creative and a launch of a series of similar events that will take place in locales across the country. A year ago I became a member of the House of Garcon and a founding member of Comme De Garcon Pro (CDG Pro), an intentional space within the House that seeks to harness community knowledge and skills, to create opportunities for House and Ballroom members to grow spiritually, professionally and civically. KBCAN and CDG Pro are just a few examples of spaces created through resiliency, working to get closer to liberation.

Let’s just be clear. Black and Brown communities, since the inception of this country, have been living in a world where systems are designed to disrupt our lives, criminalize our bodies, patrol our behaviors and police our humanity. This is a world that has intentionally— and in most cases— strategically created mechanism to ensure that our lives be devalued, pathologized and left to fend off a set of historical, harmful and institutionalized policies and practices. So out of necessity, queer Black and Brown communities have created our own connected parts, our own community of resiliency, our own sub-cultures, our own spaces and our own systems where we can experience liberation, self-determination and the power to radically shape (and reshape) our lives.

The word radical finds it origins from the Latin word “radicalis.” It simply means “of the root.” Thus, if my community feels the bruises of broken systems, if we regurgitate the trauma of multi-generational state sanctioned violence against our core identities, and if we can clearly see the strategic design of systems of oppression, then we must find radical solutions that tug at the very root of white supremacy, heteronormativity, gender-based violence and trans-misogynoir. Fortunately, communities that stand nearest to the margins, are doing just that. While creating direct confrontation at the very core of systematic harm and violence, queer communities of color—learning from the black radical tradition— have created societies that are building within them, eco-systems of liberation. I define eco-systems of liberation as fluid and sustained spaces created only through resiliency for the purpose of co-investment in radical acts of love, recognition, joy, affirmation, growth, support, and healing.

In this time, nothing is more important than being radical. “Radical” allows youth learn to survive (and thrive) when a generation of people preaching the politics of respectability are more concerned about policing our gender expression. “Radical” is how black girl magic built movements and sustained them throughout decades. “Radical” is how one taps into the imagination of the beyond, to be able to conjure up a just world that we have never known. 

Eco-systems of Liberation are radical. They are a response to rotten roots that have plagued this country since its inception. They can be found at the intersections, in compounds, through nuance and complexity. They are adverse to monoliths, norms and respectability. Eco-systems of liberation are the small informal and interconnected systems that were conjured up at the crossroads of freedom, self-determination and mobilization. They are a resistance to oppression, hatred and bigotry, but more importantly, they are a response to a core need for chosen-family, love and acceptance.

I am honored to be a part of the eco-system of liberation that has been longstanding within the House and Ballroom Scene, since it was created by Crystal Labeija, a black trans women nearly half a century ago. In times like this, we will continue to organize, mobilize, advocate and fight to hold government systems accountable. But as they continue to fail, we will continue to create eco-systems of liberation that allow us to never abandon our hope. And through hope, I know that freedom and liberation will be actualized in this world. Forever forward.

Jonathan Lykes is a policy analyst at CSSP.

Today on December 3rd the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) joins the United State of Women to declare the first United Day of Women.  As young women and girls of color continue to be overrepresented in child welfare, juvenile justice and other intervening public systems, it is important that on this day we acknowledge the structural racial and gender discrimination, personal and community violence and added trauma that often accompanies intervening system involvement.

Girls represent between 33 to 50 percent of youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and 20 to 25 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, girls of color comprise up to 61 percent of girls in residential placement in the juvenile justice system and have the highest rates of confinement to residential placement for status offenses, with Native American and African American girls placed at the highest rates.  For many young women and girls, particularly those of color, these systems fail to fully address their intersectional needs and often place them at risk for poor outcomes in life.

CSSP remains committed to advocating for young women and girls of color by promoting the gender responsive, trauma-informed and culturally competent practices and policies that are proven to address their needs. The Accelerating Change Award (ACA) and accompanying network, as well as the ongoing Fight for Our Girls series, are among CSSP’s latest efforts to center the impact of structural discrimination and trauma in the conversation around marginalized young women and girls in public systems and to support the long-term innovative solutions that encourage their well-being and success.

CSSP launched the Accelerating Change Award to lift up organizations that have demonstrated leadership and innovation in their efforts to engage and serve young women and girls of color who are involved or at risk for public system involvement. Earlier this year, CSSP recognized ROCA, Inc. High Risk Young Mother’s Program, PACE Center for Girls, Young Women’s Project, viBe Theater Experience and My Life My Choice as 2016 Acceleration Change awardees.

This past summer CSSP and ACA awardees participated in the White House’s first United State of Women Summit, a day-long conference hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls, Civic Nation, the U.S. Departments of State and Labor and the Aspen Institute. The conference brought together practitioners, policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders to discuss key gender equality issues that women and girls face, including the unique issues that often occur at the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexual orientation for women and girls of color.

The United State of Women Summit served as a collective call to action and has since transformed into a movement to advance and empower women and girls nationwide. As our body of work on young women and girls of color continues to grow, CSSP and the Accelerating Change Network remains dedicated to advancing the movement. We look forward to expanding our efforts to improve the lives of systems-involved young women and girls of color in the coming year and contributing to a broader holistic framework and national policy agenda that will ensure their well-being and success. 


Today on #UnitedDayofWomen, I will join @CtrSocialPolicy to stand for our women & girls of color in public systems.

.@CtrSocialPolicy highlights organizations accelerating change for young women & girls of color. #UnitedDayofWomen


For more information, follow the United Day of Women on Twitter using the hashtag #UnitedDayofWomen or view their Facebook page.

For more information on CSSP’s work to improve the outcomes for women and girls of color involved in multiple public systems, please visit our website here.

Precious Graham is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

2016 Election Results and the Urgency of Our Work

  ·   By Frank Farrow and Judy Meltzer,
During the coming weeks, we will all be thinking very deeply about what the election means for us personally and for our work. For CSSP, it reinforces the urgency with which we need to pursue our mission and the need to redouble our efforts, work smarter and be more courageous and more visible in advocating and fighting for those most often, too often and systematically left behind. 
As a nonpartisan organization, we remain committed to partnering with those who espouse the ideals that all children deserve to learn, develop and thrive within strong families in safe and healthy communities. We’ll continue to work with leaders at the federal, state and local levels who work to create better lives for children and families, and we’ll join with others to help chart new directions as needed.  At the same time, there’s no missing the rhetoric and vitriol that characterized this prolonged campaign season. Our job is to confront, call out and fight against the forces of discrimination, injustice, white privilege and supremacy, disrespect and oppression whenever and wherever we see them and work with others to dismantle those forces and nurture the ideas, practices and policies that create opportunities and conditions, communities and systems, that help all children to thrive. 
We’ll keep our focus on the results we are trying to achieve.  As we figure out how to channel the emotions and energies inspired by this election, let us reinvigorate our efforts to achieve racial equity and protect and secure the futures of all children because we recognize that is an American ethic that persists and one that binds us rather than divides us. This is what we do as an organization, when we’re at our best.  

Frank Farrow and Judy Meltzer are the Directors of CSSP.

We’ve had three of them” – was the response two researchers received when they asked a high-ranking probation officer to participate in a project on LGB and questioning and gender non-conforming youth in the juvenile justice system. In Angela Irvine’s paper addressing the invisibility of system-involved lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming (LGBT and GNC) youth, Irvine notes the officer’s response as indicative of the prevailing myth that the juvenile justice system detains few LGBT, queer or questioning and gender non-conforming youth. 

In reality, youth in the juvenile justice system are disproportionately LGBTQ-identifying and youth of color. Research by the Williams Institute reports that there are approximately 3.2 million LGBTQ youth between the ages of eight and 18, with more than half (52 percent) being youth of color. While only seven to nine percent of youth identify as LGBTQ nationally, a survey across seven juvenile justice facilities notes that 20 percent of youth detained are LGBTQ or gender non-conforming. The percentage further increases for girls and youth of color – nationally, 85 percent of youth who identify as LGBQ or gender non-conforming are youth of color and 40 percent of girls in the juvenile justice system identify as LGBQ or gender non-conforming.

While the number of juvenile arrests have fallen sharply over the past decade, an overwhelming majority of arrests made in 2014 were for non-violent offenses. Many youth who identify as LGBTQ and gender non-conforming and youth of color, particularly black and Hispanic males and Native American youth, continue to be overrepresented across all levels of the juvenile justice systems. President Obama issued a proclamation declaring October 2016  National Youth Justice Awareness Month, underscoring the importance of discussing and addressing how we can better support LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth who are disproportionately involved in the juvenile and criminal justice system.

Why are LGBTQ Youth Overrepresented in the Juvenile Justice and Criminal Justice Systems?

Family rejection, unsafe school climates, poverty, and housing instability often result in homelessness or place LGBTQ youth on a downward trajectory to involvement with multiple public systems. Furthermore, many LGBTQ youth, particularly youth of color, frequently face discrimination and stigma that leads to criminalization and increased interactions with law enforcement and multiple public systems. Compounded by the challenges of disparities in education, family rejection, bullying in schools, housing instability, youth probation and homelessness, many LGBTQ youth, particularly those of color, become increasingly involved with public systems, including child welfare and juvenile justice systems.Once involved with the juvenile or criminal justice systems, many LGBTQ youth will face bias in adjudication, mistreatment and abuse in detention facilities.

How Can We Better Support System-Involved LGBTQ Youth?

Given the high rates of LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice system, successfully supporting these youth require policies that are purposefully high-level and broad. Recommendations should aim to increase support for and acceptance of LGBTQ young people within families, schools, communities and institutions, reduce homelessness among LGBTQ youth, require public agencies to adopt written policies prohibiting discrimination, develop protocols to collect and protect sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) information and provide resources and support for LGBTQ youth who are released from juvenile facilities.

Most importantly, when discussing juvenile justice and criminal justice reform, we must include LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth in the discussion. Many LGBTQ youth, particularly youth of color, who are involved with these public systems, are also disconnected from their families and communities and at a higher risk of experiencing physical and emotional harassment and poor mental behavioral outcomes. Moving forward as National Youth Justice Awareness Month comes to end, we must continue to work among various efforts from proposing detailed recommendations, collecting personal anecdotes and stories or developing innovative programs to break this cycle of incarceration.

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.


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