FBU In The Media
Music at Chowchilla prison brings hope for redemption BY CARMEN GEORGE
As inmates fill up an auditorium at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, the lead singer of a Los Angeles band announces, “I came to donate some drums!” Hearing this good news from Cody Marks, Henry Ortiz of inmate band Fuego Latino clasps his hands together and brings them to his chest, as if to pray this is real: “Really!? Seriously!?”
Ortiz brought a gift of his own – roses, made of paper by another inmate down his hall. They’re intricate and beautiful, and sit in a sturdy vase of paper and purple cellophane. Marks loves them.Nonprofit Jail Guitar Doors, which sponsors concerts in prisons, made it possible for Marks, Ortiz and other free and imprisoned musicians to jam together on Saturday for an audience of around 200 inmates.The Cody Marks Band first visited the Chowchilla men’s prison last year. Marks greets inmates like old friends before Saturday’s concert.“What are they feeding you in here!?” she asks. “You look good!”“It’s the best food you’ve ever eaten,” replies inmate Daniel Henson with a playful smile. He pinches his thumb and forefinger together in a sign of satisfaction, then adds, “We’ve sustained ourselves on your music.”Marks tells Henson and Ortiz the set list, which includes the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Then, she teases: “We’re not doing ‘Free Bird.’ ”The music comes without preaching. Jef Scott, Marks’ writing partner and band leader, says his message is pretty simple: “How are you doing?”“That means a lot,” Scott says, “because someone is actually talking to you instead of talking at you.”Jail Guitar Doors also donated 12 guitars to the prison. They will be put to good use by inmates such as Ortiz, who learned to play guitar in prison.“I believe that in order for us to heal, in order for us to grow, in order for us to overcome addictions, we have to have healthy outlets, because a lot of us are here because we didn’t know how to express our suppressed emotions,” Ortiz says. “Through music, through poetry, through art, you can come out with some phenomenal stuff when you tap into your spiritual nature.”offers inmates the opportunity to participate in many activities along those lines. The wide range of activities include three inmate bands, art “recovery and therapy,” a dog training program, and a public speaking club. Lt. Ron Ladd says if people have a lot of idle time “there’s a greater chance of that time not being used productively, and maybe for negative activities.“Incarceration is their punishment – we’re not here to punish them,” Ladd says. “This helps fill idle time. It’s positive, and we have to keep in mind that these guys are going to be our next-door neighbors someday.”The 35-year-old Ortiz expects to be released from prison within 13 months. He’s been incarcerated since he was 18.“I’ve been conditioning myself all these years,” Ortiz says. “The life you want to live out there starts in here. How you live in here is how you’re going to live out there.”He talks with pride about money inmates raise and donate to help local organizations, including a program through Fresno Barrios Unidos that helps young pregnant mothers and teens affected by domestic abuse. “That kind of hit home for us,” Ortiz says, “because a lot of us grew up like that.”Scott says he’s against violence and crime, but has empathy for abuse some inmates experienced as children that may have contributed to their decisions to commit crimes later. That understanding fuels his performances in hopes of helping people change for the better.A prisoner once told him this horrifying story: “I’m a 5-year-old kid watching my mom get her brains beat out from my dad, and she’s asking for my help, and I’m just a 5-year-old kid.” “That’s when they learn to fear rules,” Scott says.Henson was sentenced to 176 years-to life for killing four family members when he was 16.“It was a terrible horrible tragedy, absolute nightmare,” Henson says. “I was in the darkest place and I never imagined I’d live to be 18. It was the most horrific emotional state that spilled over onto those that did not deserve it or never had that coming in a million years. I am light years from that teenager today.”In prison, Henson founded a group called MAGIC – which stands for “maturity plus accountability plus growth plus inspiration equals change” – to counsel young offenders.“I’m doing my part to try and rehabilitate other men in prison, to send citizens into society instead of criminals. … I’m doing what I can. I’m doing everything I can.”Groups like Jail Guitar Doors encourage him to continue this good work.“Without society embracing the concept of rehabilitation, embracing the concept of change, it’s pointless,” Hensen says, adding that he believes all human beings have “intrinsic value, meaning and worth.“And we all have the propensity to make those mistakes, to have a drink, get in a car, hit and kill somebody, or unfortunately things of that nature. But I believe that people can come back from that – that given time, and given emotional nutrients and the ability to change and grow, I believe that definitely you can overcome those things.”Music made up the emotional nutrients that changed him.“Instead of going to something destructive, instead of harming or hurting others, you can channel that energy and that pain into music or something else productive and creative – into poetry, into the arts – so that you yourself are healed through the music and others who listen to it are entertained or healed or inspired to play a bigger role in society – inspired to change and transform their own life, inspired to do things, to be more than what we were.”
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/carmen-george/article127667089.html#storylink=cpy
MUSIC IS HEALING. THE SOUNDS ARE INDICATIVE OF LIFE, OF CREATIVITY, OF EXPRESSION, AND I FULLY BELIEVE THAT A LOT OF MUSIC IS BORN OUT OF PAIN AND OUT OF THAT PERIOD WHERE PEOPLE ARE TRANSFORMING AND CHANGING THEMSELVES. Inmate Daniel Henson
BY THE GRACE OF GOD AND A LOT OF GOOD PEOPLE, I’VE SURVIVED … AND IT’S ONLY THROUGH MUSIC, THROUGH GUESTS THAT COME IN, THROUGH EVENTS THAT INSPIRE ME AND TELL ME THAT CHANGE IS POSSIBLE. Inmate Daniel Henson
FRESNO POLICE HOLDS OUTREACH PANEL TO CONNECT WITH COMMUNITY
Saturday, January 21, 2017 08:54PM
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Fresno Police officers are trying to get a better understanding of youth in the community.
The Police Training Institute held a free lunch panel Saturday to improve relations between youth in the area and police.
The Fight Crime: Invest in Kids program is a partnership between the department and several youth groups, including Fresno Barrios Unidos. Efrain Botello is part of that group and was a panelist at the event.
"We're trying to work with the police officers, but we also expect for the police officers to work with us," he said. "Their job depends on us."
The goal of the event was to come up with ways to de-escalate future conflict and increase positive interaction.
Fresno Unified School District -Building Futures November 2016 Issue
High Schools Provide Accurate, Comprehensive Sex Education
Fresno Unified freshman biology classes now include sexual health education lessons and curriculum. The text is Positive Prevention Plus (PPP), which covers 10 topics ranging from life planning and goal setting to media and peer pressure. The curriculum is taught by biology teachers and Fresno Barrios Unidos (FBU) health educators. FBU is a Fresno nonprofit that has been serving valley youth and families for over 20 years, specializing in reproductive health. The curriculum meets the requirements of the California Healthy Youth Act, which requires that all students receive accurate and comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention instruction. Last spring, the PPP curriculum was delivered to more than 5,100 students in 55 classrooms at 12 district high schools. “What a great partnership it is with FBU,” said Elisa Messing, director of Instructional Services. “FBU health educators can read a room and ask challenging questions of the students and create a safe environment. All those pieces let the lesson land positively.” Amanda Peterson, a teacher at Sunnyside High School, strongly believes in the importance of sex education: “It doesn’t matter how much we prepare our students for college or career. They won’t have those choices if they don’t get accurate and comprehensive sex education.” Socorro Santillan, FBU executive director, acknowledges that some parents may feel anxious about the instruction. “What we do in the classroom is not to replace home conversations, but to enhance home conversations that parents can reinforce with the family’s values and expectations,” Santillan said. Fresno Unified shares a common goal with parents and guardians -- that students are healthy in all aspects. Parents can excuse students from the sexual health education using an opt-out form available in the school office or from the student’s biology teacher.
September 8, 2016
The California Endowment: Neighborhoods > Neighborhood Safety > news
BY: Charlie Kaijo
When Eddie Chavez was a teenager he served time in Fresno County’s juvenile hall, where he encountered an education system that regarded detainees as lost causes at best. “A lot of the teachers would put on movies, give you chips and let you watch them,” Eddie recalls. One teacher, however, did inspire Chavez, now 20, sparking in him a desire to continue learning and eventually work toward his GED. Chavez shared his story during a July 12 forum in San Francisco organized by New America Media looking at the state of education within California’s juvenile court schools.
September 2, 2016
MOTHER JONES: Here's the Problem With California’s Groundbreaking Sex Ed Law
"We're trying to do the best we can by hook or by crook."
BY: MADISON PAULY
Five years ago, budget cutbacks in the Fresno Unified School District put an end to "Sociology for Living," a half-year course for ninth graders—and the only mandatory class taught in the 74,000-student district that involved sex education. Fresno has some of California's highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia, plus the sixth-highest teen birth rate in the state. Yet school officials dismantled the curriculum, according to an investigation by the Fresno Bee, passing off lessons from the class, including HIV prevention, to other teachers. They explained the cut as a way for students to fit more AP classes and electives into their schedules.
A local teen pregnancy prevention group, Fresno Barrios Unidos, soon began a four-year effort to institute comprehensive sex education, according to executive director Socorro Santillan. They met with school board officials and trained youth to advocate comprehensive sex education in their high schools. But only after California passed the Healthy Youth Act in October 2015, making sex education mandatory in all districts, were they able to reach an agreement with the district. Classroom teachers would cover basic lessons like goal setting and life planning, while Fresno Barrios Unidos volunteers would teach subjects that were, Santillan says, "a little more touchy," like STDs and birth control.
When the Healthy Youth Act passed last fall, California joined 23 other states in requiring that all schools teach teenagers about sex. But California's law goes further, mandating that comprehensive lessons start in middle school and include information on abortion, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. It's also the only state to require sex education be medically accurate, age-appropriate, and culturally inclusive, without promoting religion. Sharla Smith, who has overseen HIV and sex education for the California Department of Education since 2005, calls the new law "the most robust sex education law in the country." Most lessons will start this school year.
California's law mandates thatlessons start in middle school and include information on abortion, sexual assault, and gender harassment.
There's just one problem: The state has little way to ensure school districts teach to these new standards. While Smith heads a team that keeps in touch with counties and districts, the state stopped auditing districts for compliance about four years ago because of dwindling funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We're trying to do the best we can by hook or by crook," Smith said. "I literally just do not have the money."
"How will we know that everyone is actually being taught this? Because the law has gotten a lot of publicity," said Christopher Pepper, who oversees San Francisco Unified's sex education program. "I'm hoping that leads to greater compliance."
While districts like San Francisco and Los Angeles Unified have long taught comprehensive sex education and are simply tweaking parts of their curriculum or adapting existing lessons for middle school use, it's a different story in poor, rural areas like the Central Valley, according to Phyllida Burlingame, who works on the issue for the American Civil Liberties Union's Northern California office. With fewer resources and a more conservative culture, some of those districts have a history of ignoring even the state's old, looser requirements. That was the case in Clovis Unified School District, which the ACLU sued in 2012 for inadequate sex education—including using a textbook that lacked a single mention of condoms. (A judge ruled against the district last year.) "School district administrators feel that this is a complicated and challenging subject and parents in their community may not support it," Burlingame said. "They tend to self-censor what they teach."
"School district administrators feel that this is a complicated and challenging subject and parents in their community may not support it. They tend to self-censor what they teach."
Since 2003, the state has told schools that if they chose to teach sex education, they had to make sure lessons were comprehensive rather than focused on abstinence until marriage. Yet a 2011 survey from researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that many school districts were not complying with the law. Forty-two percent did not teach about FDA-approved contraception methods in middle and high school, and only 25 percent mentioned emergency contraception. Sixteen percent told their students that condoms "are not an effective means" of protecting against pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease—an inaccurate statement, the study noted.
"California's state financial crisis has eroded much of its network of valuable preventative health programs for young people, making schools one of the last strongholds for providing adolescents with comprehensive sex education," the authors wrote. "Policies set at the district level may not correspond to the actual instruction taking place."
After the financial crash, many schools also stopped teaching health classes or changed them from a graduation requirement to an elective, Smith says, and lessons on HIV and STD prevention were incorporated into science or English classes instead. Schools that dropped their health programs will not be subject to a second law, also passed last year, requiring health curricula to include information on affirmative consent—the "yes means yes" standard for consent on California college campuses.
Smith is optimistic, though, that schools will continue to react to rising STD rates among teenagers by implementing the comprehensive lessons required under the new law. "Schools have really been clamoring to teach more sex education, saying we need to do this for our students' health," she said.
Still, in the absence of state oversight, the task of ensuring that school districts are talking to kids about safe sex will fall to local groups like Fresno Barrios Unidos. And as the schools get back into gear for the fall and begin implement their lessons, the ACLU will be watching and lending support, Burlingame says: "Districts are aware of this new law and understand they should be implementing it. We're counting on them to do so."
AUGUST 11, 2016
Fresno Bee: California teen birth rate dives, but Valley remains among highest
BY: BARBARA ANDERSON
June 27, 2016
Our very own David Bouttavong is featured on the Sons & Brothers facebook page. It is an honor and a privilege to work alongside such amazing staff members like David who has shared his story and is doing amazing work in our community. Thank you David for all you do!
SONS AND BROTHERS
David Bouttavong is a first-generation queer Laotian. Soon after his parents and older sister left Laos and landed in Seattle, David was born. As a child, Boutt...avong’s family relocated to California’s Central Valley and his father began to work in the fields picking grapes, while his mother worked at an agriculture-packaging center. Bouttavong spent his formative years in Fresno, CA where gun violence and drugs abuse were all too normal, however, he was able to persevere through the adverse.
In 2000, after graduating from high school, Bouttavong attended his local community college before transferring to Fresno State, where he majored in health science with a focus in community education. It was during his years at Fresno State that Bouttavong began to get involved in community change efforts. He started to work with Planned Parenthood’s education department, providing programs in schools, community settings and juvenile detention centers for young men. During this pivotal time, Bouttavong was introduced to healing and trauma informed practices, which he continues to use today.
As a young queer person of color, Bouttavong grappled with many questions regarding his identity. The intersectionality of Bouttavong’s identities created internal conflict when having to decide how “out” he could or should be. As community leader, however, Bouttavong knew that he had a responsibility to be his full true self. “It is important for me to be out and proud, so that youth who look like me, who can identify with me, know that there is someone out there in the community making difference and they can do it too."
Bouttavong has played a key role in many change efforts for queer people of color in Fresno. He helped to organize the very first “Expression Not Suppression” conference, a space for LGBTQIA youth and allies dedicated to creating safer schools and building a GSA movement in the Central Valley. In May of 2006, Bouttavong convinced the city of Fresno to establish the first API HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Additionally, Bouttavong made history when he and his peers launched a 14 1/2-mile march from the town of Selma, California to Fresno City Hall to win back marriage rights, after the California Supreme Court upheld the ban on same-sex marriages.
Today David works as a youth program specialist with the Fresno Barrios Unidos organization providing education for young men in the “Keeping It Real” program. This Immigrant Heritage Month, we celebrate David Bouttavong’s dedication to his community and his actions, which reminds us that our work will be stronger, when it speaks to the truest part of ourselves.
June 16, 2016
Q&A: Youth Police Advisory Council Brings Community Voices to Fresno PD
Editor’s Note: In March 2015, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer announced the formation of a Youth Advisory Council at a reception held by Fresno Boys and Men of Color. The Youth Advisory Council was formed in the following months as a bridge between young people in Fresno and the police department. Youth Reporter Sierra Frank, 23, sat down with Efrain Botello, 18, to talk about his role on the Youth Advisory Council.
April 1, 2016
Youth & adult allies from the Central Valley are in DC to meet their federal representatives. The young men were there to share their vision of the future: stronger community & police relations; access to more parks in their communities; and, access to healthcare and justice for all including undocumented residents. #youthvoice #fresno #merced #sonsandbros #calendow #healthhappenshere #fresnobhc
March 2, 2016
California’s New Sex Education Requirements
By Emily Bazar
October 15, 2015
Fresno Barrios Unidos was presented with a proclamation declaring May as Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month. Thank you Councilmember Esmeralda Soria and thank everyone for all your support.
October 5 2015
Fresno Bee: Teen Success Inc. helps teen moms in Valley
Program provides education and support for teen moms
The Valley has some of the nation’s highest rates of teen pregnancy
‘I don’t want these young women to disappear,’ says group’s founder
Teen Success Inc. is a program run through Fresno Barrios Unidos that helps teen moms and encourages them to get a good education while raising their child.
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/carmen-george/article37809789.html#storylink=cpy
Jul 14, 2015
NPR: Amid High STD Rates, Fresno Unified Considers The Return Of Sex Ed
Antonio Jauregui, 18, says his freshman year at Fresno’s Duncan Polytechnical High School was all about growing up. It’s also when he had his first romantic relationship and that left him turning to the classroom for information about sex.
“They didn’t really bring up STDs," he says. "They never mentioned condoms, barriers, birth control or anything like that.”
That’s because Fresno Unified School District used to offer a class called Sociology for Living where students learned about some sexual health topics and relationships. But Fresno Unified - the state's fourth-largest district- canceled it in 2011 leaving students looking for other ways to learn.
“Probably the place we got the information wasn’t always the best," Jauregui says. "Even some friends think it’s smarter to use two condoms, they don’t know the right information.”
Jauregui is now a youth health counselor for Fresno Barrios Unidos, which is urging the district to restore the class.
"Just in my household questions about sex, birth control or relationships they don't really come up and if you do have a question you're expected to go somewhere else." -Antonio Jauregui
In a recent board meeting, Fresno Unified officials discussed the idea of bringing back sex education to the classrooms. Local public health officials applaud the conversation yet they wonder why it took so long.
Dr. Brent Feudale is a UCSF Fresno pediatric resident. During his residency, he worked with a group of girls from Fresno High School.
“The vast majority of questions that these girls had were simply about pregnancy," Feudale says. "How do I get pregnant? How do I prevent getting pregnant? I’m taking the pill does that prevent sexual transmitted infections?"
Fresno County has the fourth- highest rate of teens with chlamydia and gonorrhea infections. -Fresno County Department of Public Health
What worries health officials are the numbers. Fresno County has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the state along with the fourth- highest rate of teens with chlamydia and gonorrhea infections. At the same time, rates of HIV and syphilis are increasing. And Fresno Unified students have the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea of all Fresno county school districts, according to the Fresno County Department of Public Health.
UCSF Fresno resident Dr. Albert Chow says sexual education is the best way to reach the most number of teenagers. He says research has shown that comprehensive sex ed can help reduce the rates of STD’s.
“The states that tended to support abstinence tended to have higher rates of STD and pregnancy whereas states that tended to emphasize comprehensive sex ed had lower rates," Chow says.
By law schools are required to teach HIV and AIDS prevention but it’s not mandatory for them to offer sex education classes but that soon may change. A new bill in the legislature would make comprehensive sex education mandatory including information on STDs and contraception.
Fresno Unified’s associate superintendent of curriculum Rosario Sanchez says finances were part of the concern when the district dropped sex ed but it was also classroom time.
“At the time they made a difficult decision. There may have been some budget concerns but it was also to be to open up some other opportunities for our kids," Sanchez says. "By not having that class they can do more requirement classes, they can do AP, they can do electives.”
But Sanchez says after looking at the stark statistics the district is planning to restore comprehensive sex education in high school.
"It truly is a community issue," Sanchez says. "We are now at this point that our board has told us they're ready to start having us look at implementation."
So far, she says the majority of the board is in favor.
Trustee Brooke Ashjian says he supports proper sexual education but he questions whether things like LGBTQ issues should be taught at school. He also says in order for sex education to work, parents must be involved and not just the school.
“We feed the kids breakfast, we fed them lunch, we have marriage and family therapist on staff, we pick them up for school, we take them home, we get them before school, we’re able to keep them after school, and now we’re teaching them about sex ed,"Ashjian says. "So what are the parents doing?”
Urgent To Act
Socorro Santillan with Fresno Barrios Unidos says the district plays an important role.
“And even situations where you do have close knit families, kids are too scared to ask the parents because they’re scared the parents aren’t going to love them no more if they’re sexually active.”
For Antonio Jauregui, the 18 year old who just graduated high school it wasn’t so much that he was scared to ask his parents. He says it’s simply a topic you don’t discuss at home.
“Just in my household questions about sex, birth control or relationships they don’t really come up and they’re not expected too," he says. "And if you do have a question you’re expected to go somewhere else.”
Local health leaders say that’s the reality for many students in the Central Valley and that’s why it’s urgent to act. Fresno Unified officials are expected to discuss restoring sex education at a board meeting in late August.
Fresno County has the fourth- highest rate of teens with chlamydia and gonorrhea infections. -Fresno County Department of Public Health.
March 24, 2015
NPR: Fresno Advocates Urge Supervisors To Take Action, Provide Health Care For Undocumented
It’s been over three months since undocumented residents in Fresno County lost access to a program that provided specialty health care. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera explains, local health advocates rallied Tuesday to support its return.
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors was expected to vote on an agreement with a local company that would have restored at least some access to specialty care for undocumented residents. Instead the board postponed the discussion.
"My husband has a heart disease he needs to seek services with a cardiologist, that's specialty care so it's been really hard on us." -Maria, Fresno County resident.
Still, health advocates like Socorro Santillan with Fresno Barrios Unidos gathered outside the Hall of Records to urge the board to take action. She said farm workers and other undocumented residents can’t wait any longer.
“Unlike today when the meeting was postponed they can’t postpone being sick,” Santillan says.
That’s the case of one woman at the rally - Maria. She asked that we not share her last name due to her immigration status. Maria and her husband were among those who lost access to the program.
“My husband has a heart disease he needs to seek services with a cardiologist that’s specialty care so it’s been really hard on us," she says.
Maria, of Fresno, says these past few months without access to specialists have been really tough for her family.
Credit Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio
Last year, the board of supervisors voted to exclude unauthorized immigrants from a program that had provided them health care for decades. The county said it was losing the funding that made the program possible due to the Affordable Care Act. Then in December they voted to start a new program to provide more limited specialty care for undocumented residents, thanks to $5.5 million in state funding.
The county is expected to debate how to implement the new program on April 7.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
LEGACY OF CESAR CHAVEZ IS BEING HONORED
ABC30 Action News
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN)
Tuesday marks Cesar Chavez Day. Many Valley residents took time to remember the civil rights leader and pioneer for farm workers' rights.
With rakes and garbage bags in hand, community members came ready to take over their neighborhood. Instead of a day off on Cesar Chavez, community advocates decided to have a day of action.
Fresno Barrios Unidos Health Educator Jasmine Leiva said, "Today we thought we would do something different. We come together with the youth that we work with, the family we work with to make an impact on the street and the neighborhood that we live in every day."
Leiva helped organize a cleanup. Members planted flowers and cleaned up along Tulare Street, across from Roosevelt High School.
Volunteer Chris Hanson said, "We're used to coming to school to walking to school, and there's trash everywhere, grafitti everywhere, gang affiliation everywhere. So we wanted make a difference."
From students to families, all played a part in beautifying this Southeast Fresno neighborhood. They say you can never underestimate the power of change.
Watch Video: http://abc30.com/society/legacy-of-cesar-chavez-is-being-honored/599419/
Aired: September 30, 2013
Valley Public Radio: Through Our Eyes
Fresno Barrios Unidos in partnership with the Building Healthy Communities in Fresno and The California Endowment presents an art exhibition which highlights the issues involving todays youth.
Watch Video: http://video.valleypbs.org/video/2365089453/