Latinx Heritage Month is a time to appreciate and educate ourselves about the courage, power, and innovation of the Latin people. Latinx Heritage Month or Hispanic Heritage month encompasses those with roots in Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Central America, and Spanish culture as a whole; thus, it is impossible to encompass the greatness of the Latin people in 30 days. Instead, allow this to be a starting point. Continue to educate yourself about the extensive history and modern day movements of the Latin culture and diaspora. Today, we will be highlighting a pioneering Latinx teen who is fighting for restorative justice in her community: Edna Chavez.
Hailing from South Central Los Angeles, Chavez’s passion for social justice was sparked by the death of her brother at the hands of gun violence and losing her father to unfair immigration laws. Inspired to share her story and make change, Chavez became involved with her Community Coalition’s ‘Youth Empowerment Through Action’ group where she worked to educate and mobilize her community toward civic power. She assisted in educating her community about immigration rights and the importance of voter registration to help change policies related to immigration and gun control.
From there, she continued her activism at the March of Our Lives event in Washington D.C. where she delivered an emotional speech demanding positive change and restorative justice for black and brown communities. The march; sparked by a tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, called for national awareness of the dangers of gun violence and how it affects communities. Chavez’s speech visibly impacted attendees as the event was broadcasted on a variety of news outlets. Her words plainly described her day to day life living in fear:
“It is normal to see posters … to black and brown youth who have lost their lives to a bullet […] How can we cope with it when our school district has its own police department? […] Instead of making black and brown students feel safe, they continue to profile and criminalize us. Instead we should have a department focusing on restorative justice. […] We should feel empowered and supported in our schools”
- Edna Chavez, March of Our Lives, March 24, 2018
Chavez’s speech highlighted struggles of her community that could be solved through access to mentorships, mental health resources, jobs, and other things that would address the root causes of gun violence and community unrest. She referred to these resources in conjunction with restorative justice; a type of criminal justice and community reform that focuses on addressing causes of criminal behavior and repairing the relationship between the community and the one who committed the crime. There have been a variety of movements toward restorative justice, but Chavez does a great job at using this form of justice as a means of showing how passionate she is about change for her community.
Edna Chavaz has been invited to speak at other conferences as well, like, the Bioneers 2018 Conference where she was the keynote speaker for an event focused on youth advocacy. She is truly an inspirational figure for youth and advocates like her. Now a freshman at California State University, Chavez continues her advocacy initiatives by continuing to educate her community on the importance of voting and self-advocacy. A pioneering teen in her own right, we can all gain inspiration from Chavez. Whether we become community advocates or not, we can all choose to stand for something. The lesson we can take from Chavez’s story is to stand firm in who we are and what we believe in while respecting our own and the communities around us.
Inner Strength Education draws inspiration from teens like Edna Chavez. We see advocacy as a lifestyle as we introduce mindfulness and wellness techniques into communities wrought by trauma, similar to Chavez’s. We teach teens in these communities how to trust themselves, how to develop mental clarity for informed decision making, and how to intentionally navigate the world around them using their struggles with systemic bureaucracy , social politics, and internal struggles as context. Although we as an organization may not have all the answers, we can do our part in addressing mental health in our youth, enough to assist them on their own journeys toward empowerment – either within themselves, or eventually within their own communities.
Our Strength and Stability team works to create programs that connect teens to what they need. In a way, similar to Chavez, they work to provide resources to communities in need.
“Our stress reduction work with school leadership and staff contributes to positive school climate. We believe that the promise of our shared future rests on supporting the youth of today to become curious, caring, and creative leaders of tomorrow.”
- Inner Strength Education ‘About Us’ innerstrengtheducation.org
Where Chavez provides resources relating to civic power for better communities of tomorrow, ISE Strength and Stability team members work to make mental health resources and social, emotional, and systemic resources accessible to youth for leaders of tomorrow. We therefore take our duty seriously and do our best to listen to the needs of youth, spoken like Edna Chavez, or through the lips of our Inner Strength Education students.