July 20th, 2020
What does it mean to live in unprecedented times? We are currently living through a global pandemic, along with nationwide protests for the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others whose names are known and not known; whose lives have been taken because of the racism in our society.
The pain and fear faced by Black members of our communities across the Central Coast must be addressed, and this has created a time not only for introspection, but for action as well. As Just Communities nears its 20th anniversary in the Central Coast, we’re taking this time to think about our own history, present, and future. Allowing us to contemplate what our role has been in dismantling systemic oppression in our community, and how we have helped open the door for greater diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice within school districts, nonprofit organizations, the private sector, and government agencies. Today we are asking for your continued help in advancing our mission at a critical time.
Nearly 100 years ago, our nation saw a similar confluence of events. The flu pandemic of 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people across the world with about 675,000 deaths in the U.S. As our nation was coming out of this pandemic, the 1920’s saw a rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Catholic sentiment, an increased passage of harsh immigration laws, and 25,000 members of the Klu Klux Klan marching on Washington D.C. with an expanded mission of hate that now included Black Americans, Catholics, Jews and “foreigners.” In response to a wave of scapegoating and hate, a group of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds came together to found The National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ). NCCJ sought to combat this national wave of hate, by building an interfaith, cross-racial movement for interfaith understanding and racial and economic justice.
NCCJ’s work continued and expanded nationwide to include all forms of justice, including race, class, gender equity, sexual orientation and the rights of people with different abilities. In 2001, NCCJ opened an office in Santa Barbara to serve the Central Coast of California. And in 2007, that office changed its name to Just Communities. Since 2001, Just Communities has continued the legacy of its founders to foster social justice and dismantle systemic inequality in all of its forms.
And now, 100 years after the pandemic and hate of the 1920s, as we see our nation dealing with another pandemic and new waves of hate and division, as our work locally has been called into question by those who fear change, we see movements for social justice reaching new levels of scope and impact. It is our responsibility to act now, to continue this work long-term, not because it’s filling our social media platforms, or because it’s on the news every day, but because it is our responsibility to care for one another. Black people should be able to live in this country without fear of losing their lives due to their skin color.
So, what is Just Communities doing to respond? First, we continue our partnerships with parents, educators, youth, nonprofit and government leaders, faith leaders, and other community members to dismantle structural and institutional racism across our region through our Talking in Class, Institute for Equity in Education, FIDA (Families for Inclusion, Diversity, and Access), Language Justice, Implicit Bias workshops, and customized training programs. In fiscal year 2020/2021 we led over 20 programs, reaching over 475 youth and adults in our community. In the last month alone, we have received over 40 requests from a wide range of organizations in hopes that we can be a productive part of moving racial equality knowledge and practice forward. We expect to reach far more community members this year than ever before, and continue our role as one of the leading social justice organizations in the Central Coast.
In order to accomplish this level of work, we need your help - especially given the COVID-19 driven uncertainty tied to federal, state, and local funding. Will you join us and help continue our work to dismantle racism in the Central Coast? There are many ways to get involved. Bring racial equity, implicit bias, or language justice training to your workplace; join or start a racial equity initiative in your community; and more. Reach out to us at to discuss additional ways to get involved.
This movement is not about a moment; this work is long-term. As a long time champion of this work, we need your continued support.
Read the Washington Post article on the events that shaped the beginning of the 20th century here:
Jarrod Schwartz Melissa G. Patrino
Co-Executive Director Co-Executive Director
November 11, 2019
Where does the passion to make our community better come from? Is it taught in school? Does it grow out of one’s own life experiences? Or is it a family affair?
For Camille and Jackson Stevens, social justice is about family.
Camille is a history teacher at La Colina Junior High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. She first learned about our educator program, the Institute for Equity in Education (IEE), through the former principal and her sister, who completed the program this past March. When the time came to leave her family for a week in June, she approached the program with an open heart. She found the setting to be comfortable and safe; a place where vulnerability and open dialogue were welcomed. In discussing the impact the program had on her, she stated, “It has definitely helped me as an educator. Building positive connections with kids - I know it’s important as a teacher, but with so much curriculum, there is often not enough time. But IEE reinforced the idea that relationships are important. When students are not on task, I think about what they might be going through and I am less reactive.”
Because of her positive experience at IEE, Camille thought her son, Jackson, would benefit from our summer youth program, the CommUnity Leadership Institute (CLI) which was beginning a few weeks later.
“Every social justice movement that I know of has come out of people sitting in small groups, telling their life stories, and discovering that other people have shared similar experiences.” Gloria Steinem
Jackson was already an activist. As a junior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, he had filed papers to start the first Progressive Club, motivated by a yearbook in which a group of students made a white power symbol. CLI provided Jackson with the framework to talk about issues around racism, classism, and other systems of inequity that affect all our communities.
Jackson stated, “The biggest thing that I took away from CLI was that there's so many things that are out of people's control that they have to deal with that I personally don't. It just made me recognize the privileges that I, myself, have. And I don't even have to think about [it]. Just putting faces to names and really hearing firsthand experiences was so important to me, to learn who I am fighting for, and it made me very motivated to use the privileges I have to make that change."
For Jackson, being in a tightly knit, supportive program, where people truly cared for each other, impacted him greatly, and he was sad to leave. When his mom picked him up, he had nothing but glowing reviews, and because she had experienced a similar program, she knew what he was feeling.
Just Communities’ work not only impacts one individual; it impacts families and our community. From conversations at the dinner table, to individuals changing behaviors and systems, to young people like Jackson creating a place for dialogue between the progressive and conservative clubs at his school this fall, our work brings people together to improve our society.
The power of Just Communities is that we help people talk about issues that most people don’t want to talk about. We bridge the gap between conversation and action. And, at a time when incidents of hate are on the rise across the Central Coast; at a time when groups like Fair Education Santa Barbara organize to challenge not only or work, but the very idea of social justice in general, Just Communities develops passionate and skilled leaders who are saying “No”. Leaders who believe that despite all of the progress we have made, we have not yet arrived as a society. We still have inequity in our communities. We still have work to do and we are the ones who will do it.
You are one of those people. You are someone who believes in justice and our community. You have been an integral part of our organization and we need your continued support to be able to provide life-changing community programming throughout the Central Coast.
Our mission is to advance justice, foster change, and dismantle all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. We do this through programs like IEE and CLI, where we help people tackle complex issues, build trust and community, and create action plans to address issues they care about. And we follow through with on-going support. With your help, this past year: 105 educators attended IEE, 37 youth from Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties participated in CLI, 360 Language Justice Initiative participants, 50 who attended our Family Equity Workshops, along with over 1,000 people who participated in our seminars and workshops throughout the Central Coast with agencies such as Deckers Brands, Sansum Clinic, and Cottage Health Systems, and many more.
Your donation will allow us to continue conducting transformative workshops throughout the community; provide scholarships for students with financial needs to attend CLI; create places of inclusivity, where individuals can have true dialogue through simultaneous multidirectional interpretation; and support families who are raising their voices to advocate for more just schools and communities.
We hope you’ll join us and your fellow community members at Just Communities-today. You may donate online at www.just-communities.org
With our warmest regards and best wishes for the upcoming year,
Jarrod Schwartz, Melissa G. Patrino,
Executive Director Associate Director