#WalkforBLM

It’s another eerily smoky, hazy day in the Bay Area. We continue to live through challenging times – a time of wildfires and COVID-19 – and the country also continues to be rife with racial injustice. While we are unable to resolve these crises alone, as a community we can take active steps to promote and work towards racial justice.  As Tessa has previously written, Civicorps supports the Black Lives Matter movement, stands in solidarity with those demanding police reform, and is working to be an anti-racist organization. 

Last week, Civicorps paused operations to add our voice to the many speaking out against police brutality and the systemic oppression impacting our communities of color.  This beautiful crowd of about 25 Corpsmembers, our Board Chair and staff stepped out to proclaim Black Lives Matter on our first #WalkforBLM.

We took a spirited walk from the JTC through West Oakland to 15th and Broadway where we took in the compelling murals, enjoyed shouts and honks of encouragement from passersby, and danced to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” reverberating out of Oscar Grant Plaza. 

In a time when so much feels out of our control, it was exhilarating to come together with our Civicorps family to stand up and speak out. 

We’re planning to make our #WalkforBLM a regular occasion; we hope you can join us next time.

In the meanwhile, we hope everyone stays safe, healthy and connected. We’re glad to be in community with you.


Filed under: Blog, Notes from TessaTagged with:

From Corpsmember to Board Member

Eduardo J. Chaidez spends his days providing the public with meaningful connections to the natural, social and cultural history of California.  Creating hands-on educational programs, leading tours and conducting outreach, Eduardo is a multi-faceted professional.  Is he an anthropologist? Perhaps a curator at a museum?  If you guessed Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service, you are correct!

Eduardo serves at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, CA. The National Park Service seeks to tell the story of this country through its cultural and natural resources: who we came to be as a country and the people who shaped its direction. Eduardo believes it is of utmost importance that people with a similar background to his have an opportunity to shape how the story of our country is told.

Rewind Two Decades

Twenty years ago, Eduardo was a young adult without known prospects.  A kid from deep East Oakland and the son of an undocumented mother of four who survived domestic abuse, he could have let statistics define him.  Instead, he forged his own identity. He paved a fruitful professional path for himself through determination, commitment, and the guidance he found at Civicorps.

Upon entering our program in 2002, Eduardo found the community and encouragement he needed to confidently explore new horizons.  He became a Crew Leader, worked on a backcountry trail crew in Yosemite, and traveled on a unique adventure to Senegal, West Africa with Civicorps staff and other Corpsmembers.  He earned his high school diploma with us in 2003, and used the tangible skills he learned at Civicorps to work in landscaping and construction while taking courses in horticulture to advance his career prospects.  Working full time doing manual labor and taking community college courses part time was not an easy path, and balancing the two took nearly a decade.

Eduardo’s life then took a traumatic turn when he lost his oldest brother Alex to gun violence.  At that point, he decided to dedicate himself full time to his studies at Merritt Community College in Oakland, and then transferred to UC Berkeley.  He earned a joint Bachelor’s degree in Art Practice and Ethnic Studies from Cal.  He subsequently earned an MA in Visual and Critical Studies from the prestigious School of the Art Institute in Chicago.  Ultimately finding his way to the National Park Service, Eduardo is now enjoying a career that blends his passion for natural conservation and cultural history, and taps his talent for storytelling and public speaking.

A Unanimous Decision

And now, the Board of Directors at Civicorps will benefit from Eduardo’s leadership.  He was unanimously nominated and elected to the Board, and participated in his first Board meeting on July 15, 2020.

I have always believed that my life’s path would have been totally different if it had not been for the Corps. Giving back to the Civicorps community has been a goal of mine for some time and I believe this is a perfect opportunity to do so.

– Eduardo J. Chaidez

As a Civicorps graduate, Eduardo brings an extremely valuable – and particular – perspective to the Board. He is a product of and embodies Civicorps’ mission. He earned his high school diploma, gained job skills that gave him a direction in life, pursed and achieved higher education and is currently on a family sustaining career path. Through his experiences, he has honed his commitment to personal and professional excellence.  Eduardo hopes that by joining the Board, he can continue to cultivate an environment of inspiration for current and future Corpsmembers. 

“I really love the perspective that Eduardo will bring to the table as a Board member,” muses Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director. “I’m so impressed that he took such full advantage of the opportunities the Corps offered him. I’m inspired by his journey beyond Civicorps; his work in conservation and education brings him back full circle to us, and makes him the perfect fit for our Board.”

Welcome home, Eduardo!

Filed under: Alumni News, Blog, Notes from Tessa

Thoughts on Justice for our Black Communities

by Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director

In solidarity, we want to add our voice to the many speaking out against police brutality and the systemic oppression impacting our communities of color. As we all deal with the reality of yet another Black man (#GeorgeFloyd) and woman (#BreonnaTaylor) being killed at the hands of police we all must take pause. We must all recognize the injustice and the long history of racism that creates the current dynamics and makes it nearly impossible for Black communities to navigate their daily lives, let alone achieve their dreams. There is power in acknowledging the work that needs to be done at all levels to address the inequity around us.

At Civicorps, we are committed to our mission of uplifting young people and providing them with the skills and networks needed to reach their college and career goals. We provide the safe place and holistic services to help youth heal from trauma, build upon their positive assets and resilience, and pursue to their dreams. Our work is rooted in the belief that education and workforce development are powerful tools to promote racial and economic equity. Therefore, we are also committed to looking at our internal processes and culture in order to move the dial on diversity, equity, and inclusion, while creating space for our staff to educate themselves so that we can work both inter- and intra-personally to combat racism and racist practices.

It is my hope that our partners, funders, friends, and family will join with us to speak out against injustice and continue to find ways to support and protect communities in need. The journey toward equity is not easy or quick, we must be ready to take big and uncomfortable steps forward. I know that together we can achieve great things, and that all of us will benefit as our communities of color are provided the resources, opportunities, and safety they have been deprived of for far too long.

To our Black partners and colleagues, we see you, we hear you, and your lives and dreams matter.

Some useful resources:

California Education leaders speak out against racism

5 Ways to Show Up for Racial Justice Today

President Barack Obama on How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

Filed under: Blog, Notes from TessaTagged with: , , ,