28 Mar Partnering with TeamChild Community
“Without community there is no liberation.“– Audre Lorde
A Message from Marcos Martinez
Two months into my role as Executive Director here, I continue to be humbled by the depth of experience, creativity and dedication represented in the teams who make up our staff at TeamChild.
The young people we provide legal representation for are among the most vulnerable in our state. And they still have the potential to thrive and to develop their leadership when we create the space for that to happen.
During my first months on the job I have visited our offices in King, Pierce, Yakima and Spokane counties. We have dedicated legal professionals in each office who understand there are no good kids and bad kids; there are young people who deserve access to education, housing and healthcare so they can thrive and just be kids. In each region we work closely with community partners, including those in the court and education systems, to help ensure that young people have continued access to the resources they need for a successful future.
These first months have been a busy time at TeamChild, as we have worked to staff up in our King County office and prepare to launch an exciting new community engagement initiative. During this time the Washington state legislature has been in session, and you can read elsewhere in this newsletter about our accomplishments and challenges there. Currently we are hiring for a Managing Attorney in our Yakima County office with a commitment to client centered advocacy who will invest in the Yakima community and amplify youth voice (View our job openings HERE).
Our work depends on the talented staff who work hard to ensure young people are well represented, and we also achieve our goals by collaborating with like-minded community partners; other civil legal aid groups, community organizations that share our vision and values and elected leaders who are committed to the principles that young people should not be in detention.
The road that brought me to TeamChild winds through a life experience that includes seeing some of my own extended family experience youth detention. Often, we take punitive measures, when caring and compassion are not only more humane but also bring about better outcomes for young people, families and communities.
Coincidentally, soon after arriving at TeamChild I came across Patrisse Cullors’ new book An Abolitionist’s Handbook (View the author’s website HERE). In it, she shares twelve principles or steps that form a framework for doing abolitionist work. I see this as a guide for working in community. Cullors’ book offers its readers a guide to:
- have courageous conversations
- move away from reaction and towards response
- take care of oneself while fighting for others
- expand one’s imagination, think creatively, and find the courage to experiment
- make justice joyful
- practice active forgiveness
- make space for difficult feelings and honor mental health
- practice non-harm and cultivate compassion
- organize local and national governments to work towards abolition
- move away from cancel culture
This, for me, is a handbook for building community and linking arms with others building social movements for human liberation and to save the planet.
“We do this because the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning.“– Sandra Cisneros
I have arrived at TeamChild at a moment when the organization is undergoing a transformation, becoming anti-racist and adopting practices that more genuinely center the experiences of the young people we serve. A question we regularly consider is what it means to be community-led. This year we will begin a strategic planning process, which will give us the opportunity to deepen the work already begun.
In her book, Patrisse Cullors includes a chapter on what she calls Non-Reformist Reform, meaning real, meaningful change to the systems that oppress. She argues that we are not fighting to improve an existing, failed system; we are fighting for a new system that actually meets the needs of people. These are ideas consistent with our values at TeamChild. I invite you to build community with us, and partner with us in working for real change to reimagine systems and supports for young people that will build their power and sense of belonging. In the coming months we’ll be building out the systems for community engagement and mobilization, so please stay tuned.