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The Center on Policy Initiatives is a research and action institute dedicated to creating economic prosperity, sustainable communities and a healthy environment for all.  CPI serves a unique role in the San Diego region providing the analysis, policy solutions, education, leadership development, and alliances that advance social and economic justice 

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Spotlight on Justice: Catalyst for Change - Justice 4 SD 33

Imagine spending seven months in jail and facing a life sentence for crimes you did not commit. Imagine further that you were not even charged for committing those crimes but rather for supposedly benefiting from those crimes via your alleged affiliation with a gang.  That is what happened to Brandon Tiny Doo Duncan and Aaron Harvey, two men from Southeast San Diego who were among the 33 charged under the gang conspiracy law Penal Code 182.5. While Aaron’s and Brandon’s charges have been dismissed, their cases speak to the systematic over-criminalization of men of color. Justice4SD33, formed because of these cases, is now a grassroots organization rooted in Southeast San Diego empowering communities to fight injustices. For their efforts on behalf of the San Diego 33 and also their ongoing fight to change our broken criminal justice system, CPI is proud to honor Justice4SD33 with the Catalyst for Change Award.

We are not here to simply exist

Growing up, we’re often told the world is just the way it is and that we have to accept it. I was always instructed to play by the rules and stay out of trouble. The principles we’re set to follow since birth is: go to school, get a job, raise a family and retire. And although each of these life decisions can be satisfying, not everyone necessarily needs to do all of them or in that particular order to have a satisfying life. So, I refuse to accept this reality as my own because I don’t want myself or others to be looked down upon when they deviate from the norm. Continue reading

I do not want to go by the book

-Janera Montaño I’ve always been passionate about helping others, attending college being a first generation with a background of a deported father and a mother adopted from the Caribbean I have learned that its education and immigration issues that trigger my interest. However, as I get into my 4th year of college I have come to realize that it’s not just immigration and education, I don’t just want to be an activist or immigration lawyer, I want to combine the one thing that I have always been doing. Organizing! Of course I enjoy picketing and scramming chants like “What do we want?” “When do we want it?” but I truly have a passion for being the person behind the flyer and the planning of events. The great thing about this summer is I have learned so much through my fellowship with Students for Economic Justice. After interning at the American Civil Liberties Union for the past 5 weeks, I have become aware of the issues that I wanted to fight for. Continue reading

Activist and Organizer

-Sylise Marie Hall Participating in SEJ this summer has been an amazing journey. It is now close to the end of our summer together, and I can say that I couldn’t have asked to spend my summer any other way. I came into SEJ as a social justice activist; my focus was on racial injustices and the Black Lives Matter movement. SEJ has transformed me into more than that, into an organizer and an activist of social economic change. Since being in the program I have met so many wonderful people and have been able to learn from their stories. I was placed to work with the Labor Council. Before coming to SEJ I was not too familiar with labor laws or unions. I always knew that there were some illegal things that went on in the workplace, and now I am able to identify those issues and use resources such as the Employee Rights Center to fight for these issues. One of our workshops at SEJ was on organizing a workplace without a union. We learned in depth the skills, steps, and precautions to take in order to organize a union for an unjust workplace. Yesterday we actually had Jono Shaffer come and speak to us about his experience and victories organizing janitor workers in Los Angeles in 1990. It was great to hear and learn from his firsthand story. I never knew the importance of unions up until now, and I believe they are critical in the workplace. Continue reading

My first weeks at SEJ

Being an SEJ fellow has been a unique and rewarding experience. The knowledge I am acquiring through presentations, meetings, and the people I have met are all spearheading my future as an organizer. Before SEJ, I didn’t know what it took to organize people to fight towards a common cause or even to get people to support an issue. I am realizing that although certain measures and issues affect people and their families, it is difficult to get people involved.   Continue reading