California Strawberry Festival, Education, Foster aftercare, NLPOA, Rebozo Festival, Social Justice

Shawls, Strawberries, and Social Justice

This weekend is going to be busy-in a good way. Two famous Ventura County festivals are held this Saturday and Sunday. I’ll attend both of them since I’ve had a long association with the non-profit groups, but even if I didn’t have that association I’d still attend because both contribute all profits to social justice causes that I believe make a difference. 

The Rebozo (Shawl) Festival is a cultural event, where the rebozo (shawl) is the centerpiece highlighting Mexican heritage. It’s a colorful garden party of women wearing sundresses, garden hats, and a wide variety of shawls and  men who don guayabera‘s and Panama hats to enjoy a three hour brunch with Mariachi music. Besides the food, clothing and music the main impetus for the festival is to raise money for community non-profits that serve youth and families. This ranges from foster after care, arts education, mentoring, and counseling services. Festival

I’ll also work with the National Latino Peace Officer Association at the California Strawberry Festival, an event that draws 40,000 people into our city. There are strawberries galore, they’re everywhere from drinks to desserts. The group of law enforcement people I work with are dedicated on the job and off the job. All proceeds from two days of working concession booths go to a scholarship fund awarded to high school and community college kids. 

After 28 years working within prison walls I’ve accumulated a few theories on what keeps youth out of juvenile halls, jails, and prisons. We could go into the nature versus nuture (innate qualities versus personal experiences) debate about criminality, but there is no clear cut winner. 

I’m not speaking as a sociologist, however that is my university degree, but  my personal and professional experiences lead me to say that there are a few things that help youth stay out of the criminal justice system: Mentoring, education, and employment.

Who would have thought that shawls and strawberries could be so powerful. 

Chingona, Diary of a Pakistan Girl, Education, Education for girls, Girls Plus Education Equals, Literacy, Malala, Taliban

How One Girl’s Blog Impacted the World

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela

By now you have heard or read the news stories about 14 year old Malala Yousufzai. 

On October 9, 2012 gunmen stopped a van carrying Malala and her classmates as they returned from school in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. 

Gunmen jumped inside a van carrying Malala. They ordered students to point her out. The men opened fired, wounding her in the neck and head. Two others, Shazlea and Kainat, were also wounded. The Taliban stated they initiated this horrendous attack and vowed to kill Malala if she survives. She is now in the U.K  being treated for debilitating wounds. 

How did this girl enter into the cross hairs of the Taliban’s weapons?

She was an 11 year old who had a power of conviction highly unusual for a young girl. 
That’s correct, she began blogging three years ago. Instead of accepting what was happening  in her town, ignoring her passion, pushing down her feelings, letting fear silence her convictions, she used her voice. She started a blog. 

Bien chingona this young girl. A girl anyone would be proud to call m’ija. 

Her blog, Diary of a Pakistan Girl, began in 2009. Abdul Hai Kakkar, a BBC reporter, had first approached Ziauddin Yousafzai, a local school director, to get a female teacher to write about life under the Swat Taliban. No teacher agreed, but his eleven-year-old daughter, a seventh-grade student, was interested in writing a diary. Malala passed on hand-written diary pages to the reporter. He would post her entries. 

January 15, 2009

“The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 am. Afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework.Today is 15 January, the last day before the Taleban’s edict comes into effect, and my friend was discussing homework as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.”

February 8, 2009
“I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taliban have banned girls’ education…
My brother’s school is also reopening and he has not done his homework.”

Malala continued to blog and grew an immense online presence with students and others in the world internet community. In an interview with CNN she said, 

 “I was scared of being beheaded by the Taliban because of my passion for education…    During their rule, the Taliban used to march into our houses to check whether we were studying or watching television.” 

In 2011 she was awarded Pakistan’s first peace prize. With the accolades came more threats from the Taliban.  

She didn’t stop blogging nor did she stop fighting for education for girls. 

“I have the right of education,” she said. “I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”

Malala’s story of defiance and survival has triggered an online petition and support pages rallying for Malala and her fight for girls’ education. An online “I am Malala” petition is demanding that girls get better access to education. 

The U.K’s former Prime Minister wrote an article about why we should be furious and carry on Malala’s passion. 

Before the attack, Malala was in the process of starting a charity, the Malala Education Development Organization, to promote female education in northern Pakistan. Other organizations are also working in the region to turn her dream into a reality for all girls in Pakistan.

What can we as individuals do? Click and sign a petition, click and donate to a literacy charity of your choice, converse with students (your own kids) about freedom of education, and  support education in our own country. 

Girls + Education=

Once Malala recovers, which may be months from now, I am betting that she will continue to blog, do interviews, write a book, and continue with her goal of becoming a political leader so that she can ensure justice for girls and women. 

Be a part of that effort.