Monday, April 23, 2012

Malachi Larrabee-Garza: Holding Decision Makers Accountable Within Juvenile Justice Systems

 Name: Malachi Larrabee-Garza

What is your job? What charities do you support – and how? My job is the primary charity I support.

I have worked at the W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) for 4 years. The BI works to improve the lives of youth of color, poor youth and all of us by ensuring fairness in the juvenile justice system and supporting community groups that seek to do the same. 

 I’m the Director of the Community Justice Network for youth (CJNY). CJNY is a project of the BI. CJNY is a network made up of 180 member organizations whose work focuses on keeping youth of color and other vulnerable youth in community supports and out of the juvenile justice system. I support these individuals across the U.S. helping them build strong organizations and to work together to create a movement strong enough to change this world into what our communities deserve. I support individuals who with very little money and a lot of heart struggle with the stresses of having one or more loved ones locked up while trying to keep their doors open. I spend quite a few nights on the phone at 2am being a listening ear, thinking through strategic questions or giving a dose of hope gained from my personal struggles and triumphs.

Central to my work is creating programs built on these relationships. It’s my job to help identify organizations that can support one another, provide the resources and logistics to organize ‘peer exchanges.’ Basically strategically getting the right people in the room, creating a safe accessible space for dialog and learning and then- get the hell outta the way. The Peer Exchange Program is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. The lessons and relationships built from a one day session with Friends and Families of Louisianans Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) teaching and learning from Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth (TFIY) is a million times greater than the lessons any academic could ever give in 5 hour power point presentation.

My work is also about holding decision makers accountable within juvenile justice systems across the United States. I have seen bias at play in decision-making that is just wrong and unfair. It can’t be that two kids do the same crime but one is sent home and the other spends a week locked up and 2 years probation. It can’t be that because a kid is homeless or their mom smokes rock or that he is transgender that he deserves to be in juvenile detention. It can’t be that way, but is it. Part of my work is to help groups organize against these issues, stop them and quite often provide alternatives to system involvement.

What social causes are most important to you?
The harmful and unsustainable prison industry has gotta go. There are other ways to provide public safety and justice. We must actualize more and more alternatives. Also extremely important to me is the unequal distribution of wealth across the globe, such server imbalance and greed it’s bringing this world to its knees. Also although it maybe unpopular I find it extremely important to serve people who many else won’t even acknowledge – the transgendered community, the sex workers… I think as a society we need to get it together and have respect for everyone.

Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie?
I work for kids lives to get better, be safe, secure…cuz I think I started fighting for myself and realized that I was not alone. I faced rejection and navigating the world on my own much too young. And it happening mostly in the name of God was difficult on a whole other self-hate level. I saw those in authority that are supposed to protect us including police being so violent and exploiting vulnerable youth. But I understood quickly I was not alone within my suffering and not alone in fighting to change it. This sparked a passion in me to work for change and helped deal with my rage. This passion has never stopped.

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?
I would ask each person reading this to think about one thing they could do to help those in most need. To suspend judgment and just give of yourself. Maybe it’s clothes for the homeless shelter; a little present for a foster kid- there are so many ways to help. To make the greatest impact I believe joining an organization, working with others in your local area is our greatest hope. If we can learn to work together our collective strengths are magnified way beyond what an individual can do. People would be surprised how easy it is to plug in- just internet search your geographical area combined with your helping interest area and the word organization and BLAMO or feel free to contact me- part of my job is to link people with opportunities to help in their local area. 

How would you define social responsibility?
Social responsibility is both the duty all of us have to work toward collective wellness as well as the action of doing so.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your social work?
Three of my tattoos reflect my journey I have been through, the struggle of those in jail or who has a loved one in the juvenile or adult system and our transitions within the pain and in peace. In old English, one down each upper arm I have Fierce (Irish Gaelic) and Peace (in Spanish). Both reminding me to honor my ancestors as well as get though the hardest sh*& with ferocity and also with a sense of peace. Like wholeness within the brokenness. These were done by Natalie at Black and Blue tattoo in SF.

I have the Virgin (Our Lady of Fátima) on my forearm in a quarter sleeve. This tattoo is in honor of my Grama who took me as an older kid when I really needed it and couldda gone down a much rougher path. She always said the Virgin made and I love you just like she does. This saved my heart and taught me that the way people act gives God a bad name but the greatest of all things is unconditional love. My Grama even came with me to get this tat done. ‘Joe’ in SF did it, he’s a small, red haired muralist, skate deck designer and tattoo artist. He worked out of a little studio offa 14th by Valencia. I lost his number but would love to recommend him to the world. If anyone knows how to reach him let me know! 

1 comment:

  1. Malachi, I admire your noble efforts in helping juvenile offenders achieve acceptance in society. I myself believe that they deserve a chance to do what other young people outside of prison enjoy.

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