OP-ED: “We are wholeheartedly reflecting on our practices and ourselves” MILPA responds to Voices editorial


By the MILPA Collective

MILPA as a collective is committed to social change, racial justice, and a safe community for everyone. We continue to work towards changing systems of oppression and creating healthy solutions to tough problems.

In August, a member of our organization witnessed a young person harm another youth. We are assessing our organizational policies and procedures, and are seeking guidance to ensure that every event sponsored by MILPA is a safe space for community residents. We, with the support of numerous allies and colleagues, maintain that the footage captured is not representative of what MILPA values or does.

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Our collective is committed to the practice of restorative justice.  That means when someone in our community has experienced harm, we come together, discuss what happened, address the root of the problem and together develop a plan that fosters safety and healing from trauma, without the use of punitive practices that generate more violence.

Every member of our collective is a survivor of violence and trauma.  We are also survivors of institutions that have systematically invested in incarceration and control, rather than our healing and support.  When we see the footage from the skate park, we also see the complexity of community organizing, the challenges of addressing trauma in individuals and in the community, and opportunities for us to do better and be better. Trauma and need require a response of love and healing – not incarceration and intimidation.

During the last five years we’ve remained committed to building leadership and opportunity for the most marginalized in our community, while addressing trauma with culturally rooted healing practices.  Our efforts to divert resources away from punitive practices that harm and further marginalize those already suffering from adverse community experiences will remain a top priority.

MILPA has always advocated for expanding resources that support youth development, mental health, and alternatives to incarceration.  We have been part of efforts in Monterey County to create youth pathways focused on restorative justice, civic participation, technology, art and career opportunities, instead of the harmful practice of incarcerating our children.

We are grateful to all of the local, state, and national leaders who continue to stand with MILPA and the difficult work we are doing to repair generations of inequity, racism, and oppression.

In recent times we’ve met with youth skaters at the park and have been welcomed with warm smiles. It will take a lot of time to repair harm, but it’s our ongoing duty to stand up for our community through thick and thin. We will continue to bring positive programs and healing to those who have survived trauma that many couldn’t even begin to comprehend.  This is the approach our community has demanded, the approach that research shows works, and the approach that threatens those who remain addicted to punishment and mass incarceration.

During this time, we assure our community that we are wholeheartedly reflecting on our practices and ourselves. Our goal is to advance racial justice in Salinas and lift up the beauty in our community, too often overlooked. We are your people, we are your community and we are Salinas. Let’s work to make it better, not tear it down.

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About MILPA Collective

MILPA is a Salinas-based, mission-driven, formerly incarcerated cadre committed to supporting next-generation infrastructure and leadership within community, organizations, institutions, and systems.