30 Years Strong
It was a wonderful California day for a celebration.
The skies were mostly clear, streaked by lines of thin white clouds as though a child had taken a sky blue crayon and quickly ran the wax all over a clear white piece of paper. Although there was a chill upon the air, the warm embrace of the Central Valley sun enveloped those who gathered on the steps of the State of California Capitol building in Sacramento.
Pillars of balloons stood on either side of the steps and were crowned by the number “30.” These mylar pillars framed a large poster which contained the words, “We move FORWARD with heads held high, a STRENGTH that cannot be denied!” words of empowerment penned by the poet Shubha Sagar. These words ran along the back of the rampant lion, stoic in looking forward to victory. The pillars and banners and crowds conjured up images of a victory gathering in some ancient Mediterranean capital, an appropriate image for the celebration at hand.
We were gathered not to celebrate the victory of an ancient peoples but instead we gathered to celebrate the work of a cadre of brothers and sisters who for 30 years had banded together to engage in a modern-day legislative battle around the needs, cares and concerns of those youth in the state foster care system.
We were gathered to celebrate the victories and accomplishments of the California Youth Connection (CYC) who for thirty years have been advocating for a more fair and equitable system of foster care and battling for justice for every foster child in California. And they have much to celebrate.
From their first legislative victory in 1992 when the then ten-year-old organization successfully lobbied to have placed into law the ability for social workers and others to sign a foster youth’s driving license application (Think about it…if you do not have parents in your life who is going to sign this form on your behalf?) to the latest battle to ensure placement security for youth, CYC has been at the forefront working with foster youth and empowering them to make their voices heard in these legislative corridors.
Alongside the lobbyists for the most powerful, alongside the brokers for the most privileged in our society, alongside the consultants for the wealthy in this Capitol building, CYC stands shoulder to shoulder to advocate for those who are the most vulnerable in our state.
And who are the members of CYC? They are the youth whose lives have had experience within the very system they are fighting to change and improve: present and former foster youth.
So on this California day on the steps of the Capitol when we had legislators speak of advancing Assembly Bill #2247 we also had foster youth present telling their stories, and foster youth leading chants, and former foster youth reading their poetry, and a former foster youth – who was one of the founders of CYC 30 years ago and is now the Executive Director, Haydee Cuza – remind all who had gathered that it was these youth and young adults, these foster youth who had crafted and submitted AB #2247 themselves. This was their bill that contained their collective experience and their collective story and their collective answer to the challenge they have all had to face. A collective roaring from the steps not only for themselves but for every foster youth in the State, past, present and future.
We at Braid are proud to stand with CYC and are grateful to have been invited to join with them in caring for the youth who through no fault of their own find themselves in the foster system, your youth that you see every week.
And it is our hope that by the time CYC celebrates their 35th birthday there might be one or two or more of our Braid youth using the voice you have helped them find to advocate for a more just and equitable foster system.
We look forward to the day when some of our youth will join the roar of their peers and stand on the steps of the Capitol building proclaiming that you, their mentors, taught them to hold their heads high and move forward with a strength that cannot be denied.
You are the gift!