Bryan Stevenson: To heal our national trauma, we need to face our genocidal past


Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, won a U.S. Supreme Court case banning mandatory life sentencing without parole for anyone age 17 or younger. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, a state that officially celebrates Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr., day together, the Harvard-trained lawyer has dedicated his life to serving the poor, the incarcerated, and children prosecuted as adults.

Stevenson keynoted the final day of the 2016 Conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences held October 19-21 in San Francisco and hosted by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW). CYW is based in Bayview/Hunter’s Point, a part of San Francisco as far removed from the thriving high-tech scene as is Birmingham.

The founder of the Center for Youth Wellness, Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, a dynamic pediatrician and social activist, introduced Stevenson, whom she met at a dinner hosted by Alphabet (formerly known as Google) chairman, Eric Schmidt. Fortuitously seated together, they both recognized in each other a drive to create more justice in this country.

“America is the most punitive nation in the world,” Stevenson began, and then cited some well known statistics: the U.S. incarcerates 2.3 million people today, up from 300,000 in 1972. Stevenson said blacks suffer most, because one out of three male African American babies are now expected to go to prison.


He said that part of the problem is our culture. “We use a punishment mindset that exacerbates the trauma (people have already suffered). We have to change that.”

He offered several solutions, some cultural, some policy-driven, such as having the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declare a health crisis in the 200 zip codes in the U.S. where 80 percent of the children are expected to end up in jail because of the dire circumstances they will experience,  including family violence, neighborhood violence and systems violence.

To me, the child of a holocaust survivor, whose own parents and grandparents were survivors of anti-Semitic pogroms in Eastern Europe, Stevenson’s depiction of America as a “post-genocidal society,” created by “an ideology of white supremacy” rang true.

Continue reading

Dr. Seuss takes over community heroes panel at California ACEs conference


(l to r) Teri Barila, director of the Children’s Resilience Initiative; Dr. Ariane Marie-Mitchell, assistant professor in Loma Linda University Preventive Medicine and Pediatric Depts. (Photo: Jennifer Hossler)

Sauntering on stage to the beat of Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone, four “heroes” of the ACEs movement took their seats for a panel on trauma-informed and resilience-building communities on October 21, the last day of the 2016 Adverse Childhood Experiences Conference in San Francisco.

After the music stopped, panel moderator Jane Stevens, founder and publisher of ACEs Connection Network, explained that the presentation would be based on a video animation by Matthew Winkler. He, in turn, was inspired by Joseph Campbell, who explored the common themes of a hero’s journey from stories around the world in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Stevens introduced Teri Barila, who cofounded the Children’s Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA; Dr. Ariane Marie-Mitchell, who teaches and does research in the Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics Departments at Loma Linda University in San Bernardino, CA; and DeAngelo Mack, who manages the Sacramento Violence Intervention Program at WellSpace Health in Sacramento, CA. 
And then, like magicians, the four people on stage pulled out Dr. Seuss hats – tall, broad brimmed hats with the familiar red and white stripes – and put them on their heads. They all opened up what looked like children’s books, and taking turns, each started to take the audience along for an ACEs journey.
(l to r) Jane Stevens, Teri Barila, Ariane Marie-Mitchell, DeAngelo Mack

(l to r) Jane Stevens, Teri Barila, Ariane Marie-Mitchell, DeAngelo Mack

The surprise was that the story — scripted by Stevens — about a girl named Patience, was all in Seuss-like rhyme:
Once upon a time, a gal named Patience
Heard about a thing called ACEs science.
Wow, she said, it’s puzzle part that’s missing
Who’s using this? I’ve got to find out quick, no fussing

Continue reading

Racing ACEs gathering and reflection: If it’s not racially just, it’s not trauma-informed


The following memo was written by a group of people who participated in the Racing ACEs gathering. 

It’s 2016. Local and national protests rise against an ongoing stream of state-sanctioned murders. African-American lives are being lost at a frequency and in a manner that decry ethnic cleansing. Sacred Indigenous land is being desecrated for profit. African-American, Native American, Latino American, Asian American, and poor communities are facing dislocation, police violence, and a range of traumas that compose the frayed ends of America’s historically racist national fabric.

Continue reading

2016 Adverse Childhood Experiences Conference in California focuses on action


The Adverse Childhood Experiences 2016 Conference, hosted by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) and sponsored by the California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, and Genentech, took place October 19-21 at the Park Central Hotel in downtown San Francisco and began with an exuberant welcome from the CYW’s executive director, Mark Cloutier.

“Let’s have fun,” he shouted, and the 450 participants — teachers, therapists, doctors, lawyers, and other trauma-cloutierinformed professionals — gave a big shout back.

Continue reading

Parenting’s troubled history: Why changing family patterns is our most important work

apunish2As we learned from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study, negative childhood experiences are often kept secret, downplayed, or repressed because of our powerful desire to put such things behind us. Unfortunately, our minds and our brains don’t work that way. Patterns can play out automatically, no matter how hard we try to be original and create our own realities.

Just as it is important to know family medical history (e.g., diabetes or tuberculosis) it is equally important to know about our social inheritance.

Continue reading

Police and Black Teens: “If I Get Pulled Over Today…”

By JJIE Staff
 At the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, Michael Gandy, now 28, draws from personal experience as a young black teen. He talks to his mentor and “big brother” Austin Scee, 44, about police, mentorship and the community’s responsibility in the nationwide conversation concerning youth and law enforcement.
Scee: So, Mike, I thought given everything that’s been going on in our country, now might be a good time to revisit something that happened to you and to me in 2008 when you drove up to our house. [My wife] and I met you at the end of the driveway. You were driving your mother’s car, which was a beat-up old car with, I think, fairly heavily tinted windows. You had a police car trailing you as you drove up our street. You made an illegal U-turn in a four-way stop to park in front of our house —

Continue reading

Kids and drugs: A new theory

By Karen Savage
NEW YORK — Author and reporter Maia Szalavitz, who writes about substance use and related issues recently spoke with Youth Today and JJIE about her experience and her newest book: “Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction,” released in April. Here’s Szalavitz’s take on addiction and its complexities, from her own experience and in her own words.

A sin or a learning disorder?

There’s traditionally been two ways of seeing addiction. Either it’s a sin and you’re a horrible bad person and you are just choosing to be a hedonist, or it’s a chronic progressive disease. While I certainly believe addiction is a medical problem that should be dealt with by the health system, the way we’ve conceptualized addiction as a disease is not actually accurate. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: