Oakland resident and nonprofit leader George Galvis will be honored on October 10th with a $25,000 California Peace Prize by The California Wellness Foundation. George, previously incarcerated in his youth, has for two decades drawn upon his Native American culture to empower at risk youth to rise above crime and violence. George Galvis is one of three honorees throughout California to be recognized by the awards.
George's experience of being incarcerated in his youth provided the drive and direction in what he has accomplished for young people. He gives voice to the issues for youth-at- risk who get into the prison system, and are lost. As the Co Founder and Executive director of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice *CURYJ (pronounced courage)in Oakland, he works directly with youth in the juvenile and criminal justice system. George seeks to find the future community leaders through recognition of what's effecting their lives, and violence and poverty are central to that. Consistent with this work, he works also with other nonprofits that want to recognize the root cause of poverty and violence in the Bay Area.
"We never know what kind of phenomenal contributions a young person might be able to make to our families, our communities and to our society," said Galvis. "Every child is a blessing, born with a gift to share with the world, and we must guide them to ensure they unwrap their presents," he says. Giving youth a hand up by showing them how to develop the ability to respond to those conditions that limit their lives with creative solutions is one of the contributions this work provides.
George is recognized by The California Wellness Foundation specifically for the organizing work with CURYJ in 2010. He states "Oakland is backing away from gang injunctions as a strategy and not enforcing the current existing two injunctions (piloted in North Oakland and Fruitvale,) and although the city will never publicly admit defeat, I take that as a victory that we are the first community that I'm aware of to organize and stop a gang injunction." As George describes it, rather than marginalize the youth at risk, alienating them from society and isolating them which would be the result of the injunction of gangs, it would be better to bring the youths into society. As George describes it, for youth not in school without jobs and on the street, gangs are not so much the cause but the effect of the real problems for youth: violence and poverty.
Through his Executive director role with Communities United for Restorative Justice, George has brought a level of awareness to Oakland that there is a real alternative to expensive law enforcement programs that have little or no effect on safety and health benefit to Oakland. CURYJ deals with the youth directly in developing strategies and policies to support their lives. George is working with the schools to redefine the use of punishment that has been proven to add to kids giving up on school and therefore giving up on jobs and often a place to live. The gang injunction replaces one problem with another and leaves the youth at risk with nowhere to go, most likely "forcing them into a life of crime," is how George sees it. "Establishing rites of passage programs has proven itself to be a real alternative to gang violence," George says and the transformation of the potential for youth becoming community members with a contribution to make is where George begins his work every day.
A life and a job are what the young people are looking for. Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries once said "Nothing stops a bullet like a job," and certainly jobs and a future is what will makes the difference for these young people. CURYJ and George and those that work with him make the effort every day in their reach to the youth in the City of Oakland to bring that possibility to bear for the youth coming up to a world that meets them and has a place for them.
The California Wellness Foundation 21st Annual Peace Prize will be presented to George and two other winners October 10th, 2013 in San Diego it was announced today.