Californians for Justice has grown greatly over the last two decades. From our start in Oakland in the late ‘90s organizing students and community to confront racial bias in our education system, to today’s campaigns calling for full funding of our public schools. We’ve never stopped organizing and evolving, listening to our communities and lifting up the voices of young people in hopes of transforming policy, developing young leaders and securing a better future for California.
A key ingredient along the way has been the incredible staff working with students, parents, educators and elected officials to strengthen our public education system. Whether it’s visiting school sites to engage with youth and developing their leadership, or staying behind-the-scenes, building relationships with funders and allies to help us continue doing this phenomenal work.
In February, we’re giving a special shoutout to the following four faces, representing each of our four regions across the state. This is the first of a series to help introduce our staff, and build relationships with our amazing community. Be sure to check them out, hear about their journey to work in the movement and say hi next time you see them!
What’s been a strong moment or personal success you’ve had with CFJ?
“Our region has significantly grown in the past year and I am proud to have been part of this evolution. After years of pushback and countless life-sucking meetings, we have been able to move the dial on school climate and culture efforts in our district. We have been able to build key relationships with school administrators in two schools, co-host our first district wide teacher training with the district and have a growing partnership with our local teacher union. I am excited for the opportunities these efforts are going open and eager to see our base grow with two youth organizers” — Elizabeth Guzman, Lead Organizer in Long Beach
- “Throughout my 8 years with CFJ, I’ve seen a lot of internal changes and growth. I am so proud of our team and our young people for so many things, but what I’ve most directly experience has been our growth in support. Thanks to our incredible donors, we’ve tripled our fundraising from individuals in the last three years. The outpouring of support and excitement around the work our young people are doing has been inspiring” — Chelsie Brooks, Development and Project Director in Oakland
- Two years ago I ran my first campaign for CFJ and was able to pass a resolution to adopt Relationship Centered Schools in Eastside High Schools here in San Jose. I felt youth power hussle to really pass a huge win in ESSJ and I was proud of the youth and the growth of CFJ since I was a student — Angeles Rojas, Lead Organizer in San Jose
- Having the privilege of being in the first cohort of YO! Cali Fellowship (Youth Organize California). The ninth month journey took me on a path of deep love, and deep appreciation for myself as an Emerging Organizer. It was in that space where a personal success was planted; I am enough to be a part of the movement and my community can in fact lean into me as a source of knowledge, wisdom, and love — Andrew Escamilla, Organizer in Fresno
What is your favorite part of work with CFJ?
- Hands-down, the incredible people I work with everyday. Across our regions, I am constantly inspired by everyone’s magic. Everyone walks in light of their vision for a better world & their commitment to social justice shines in their own lives and all our internal conversations. I enjoy having super visionary, critical but also loving conversations with my colleagues. They are more than coworkers but homies/friends for life — EG
- I love seeing the transformation our young people undergo through their time with us. Meeting them as freshman just beginning to explore their values and personalities, and seeing them grow into powerful young leaders with strong voices and ideals is amazing and is what has kept me at CFJ for almost a decade — CB
- My favorite part of CFJ has to be working with youth. I see myself in so many of them. When I was in high school my sister would drag me along to CFJ meetings and then it became a space for me to truly explore the person I was and I wanted to be. The past couple of years I have been able to see a couple cohorts of CFJ youth step into their truths and that really has been my favorite part of this work — AR
- Staff retreats! The nature of a statewide organization means we are always on web conferencing, so being in space with people who love you unconditionally is a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of — AE
What’s your current media binge?
- I am obsessed with astrology memes pages on instagram and Extraordinary Homes on Netflix. I think I was a bruja architect in a past life — EG
- Anything streaming – I watch lots of cooking shows and detective dramas — CB
- I love watching Turkish soap operas on youtube. (dont do it , you’ll get into a hole) — AR
- True Detective Season 3! (must watch) — AE
What inspired you to do movement work?
- My community (South Central/the diaspora) and family. While I walked to and from school, I witnessed what structural racism looks like on a day to day in the hood — from homelessness and drug abuse to empty lots and liquor stores on consecutive corners. I remember always feeling a sense of unease and confusion. I wondered why other parts of Los Angeles were different. My ‘hood’s reality inevitably hit home, when my one of my older brother was pushed out of high school. While we went to the same schools, we had starkly different experiences. I was privileged to be tracked into a college prepatory program while he was caught in the school-to-prison pipeline. I did not know it as such then but it fired me up. I was sad, angry and eager to understand why — why my neighborhood did not have the same resources as the westside, why my brother and I had polar experiences. So I sought answers in college — EG
- I grew up in a small, conservative town in Northern California where there are few organizations working to empower and support young people of color. After moving to Oakland I knew that I wanted to use my skills to make more possible for young people and their families — CB
- What inspires me to do movement is my people in my life. It’s filled with strong woman what regardless of how structural oppression works against their existences they continue to fight, thrive, and laugh. To me they ground me in my personal need to engage in struggle — AR
- Creating space and making space where vulnerability, intentionality, and love can manifest is a community that I have longed for. I have found that in Organizing work. Coming from the realm of academia and higher education I felt too disconnected, too distant from the pursuit of liberation, for myself and my community. This Organizing work of reimagining, reclaiming ourselves and our community is what keeps me grounded and why I do movement work — AE
If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
- I would meet with my great grandmothers (7 generations back) — EG
- Maya Angelou – her poetry had a big impact on me when I was young and figuring out who I was and I wish I had had the chance to see her speak — CB
- I would meet Frida, Khalo, just have a chat about her painting –AR
- The person I would choose to meet is J. Cole — AE