Why Black Culture Matters: AMAAD’s look at Impacts and Importance through the 2020 AmeriCorps California Justice Leaders Partnership.
By Darnell Green, Manager of Youth and Young Adult Services
While 2020 had its share of life-changing moments, the AMAAD Institute (Arming Minorities Against Addiction & Disease) managed to forge a successful partnership with AmeriCorps, a national civic organization with the goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.” The partnered project, California Justice Leaders, is a yearlong project created to provide honorable discharge support to justice-involved youth and young adults of the South Los Angeles community. The honorable discharge process introduces beneficiaries to programs and services that will reduce their recidivism rates in efforts to present their case in court and document their efforts toward potential expungement. AMAAD gladly welcomed three California Justice Leaders, Joshua Thomas, Donald Wilson, and Juwan Bonner.
In spite of our young leaders having to navigate their roles through a pandemic, they grew personally by learning leadership skills and professional discipline. Through trainings and research opportunities provided by the AMAAD staff and under the supervision of Darnell Green, Manager of Youth and Young Adult Services. With the rise in COVID19 cases in Los Angeles, the California Justice Leaders had to learn to be flexible. “AMAAD taught us to adapt, improvise and overcome,” says Thomas, 24.
In 2020, the California Justice Leaders successfully conducted targeted outreach and virtual education sessions to AMAAD’s community members and stakeholders. They developed and implemented outreach strategies for program participants and community members who could benefit from the honorable discharge process. With their leadership skills in tow, the California Justice Leaders also achieved success by assisting beneficiaries with securing honorable discharge. “Helping a beneficiary get their honorable discharge makes me feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose for being in California Justice Leaders!” Wilson, 25, shares.
The AMAAD Institute’s intention with the California Justice Leaders is to be an access point for community members to connect to justice prevention, intervention, and diversion services and to assist developing professionals find their purpose. AMAAD is committed to creating an authentic environment to foster personal and professional growth through culturally led and celebratory programs and services that are implemented by people with lived experienced.
As part of the AMAAD Institute’s commitment to building Black leadership, the agency is excited to welcome Thomas and Wilson into full-time roles as Health Educators/Outreach Specialists. In these key positions, they will assist in engaging participants by eliminating barriers to essential services that will benefit our community. Bonner,24 has returned with our second cohort as Lead Volunteer.
“This is how AMAAD invests in community,” Green says. “We support and develop! Adding value to a person’s life matters and it builds up our community. If we can survive and overcome the negative components of our lives, then we can do anything we put in our minds. Working through the barriers of justice involvement can be difficult for many people. AMAAD is ensuring that we build resources and support for our community in order to create a model for other organizations to follow.”
Cohort Two of California Justice Leaders begins February 2021. This year, AMAAD has more support from our partners and experienced team members to help navigate our volunteers and community members to wellness.
As AMAAD continues to increase capacity, leadership will continue to find ways to advance the lives of our staff, participants, and communities through support and development. AMAAD recognizes that everyone can benefit from support and development no matter where they are in life.
Green goes on to share, “There is something magical that happens when you assist Black LGBTQ+ youth with achieving their greatest potential. And it’s more magical when it’s done in an environment where they can be affirmed for who they are as a full human beings.”
The AMAAD Institute’s mission is to “facilitate personalized individual access to programs and services that foster safe, supportive, and healthy environments for people to live, learn, and develop to their fullest potential”. Collectively our team looks forward to expanding on that mission, one step at a time.
To connect with Darnell and the Youth and Young Adult Services team, visit www.amaad.org.