“We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
About The Spot
The Chinatown Youth Center Initiative (CYCI), a collaboration of over 20 community based organizations, governmental agencies, local elected officials, and community members in Oakland, CA, grew out of the Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Community Response Plan (CRP), a group convened by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in 2001 to conduct a grassroots study on API youth violence. The two-year community research and mobilization process culminated in the publishing of Under the Microscope, a report documenting the needs of API youth in Oakland, as well as proposed solutions. One of the report’s recommendations was to develop multi-service centers focusing on the needs of API youth.
While the CRP group continued to convene to discuss ongoing issues and challenges for API youth in Oakland, as well as share strategies to address these needs, in 2007, increasing conflicts between newly arrived Mongolian immigrants and more established Southeast Asian youth escalated to the shooting death of a young teenage woman. The tragedy resulted in the incarceration of 6 young men, one of which received a maximum sentence of 50 years to life, and left a permanent disruption in the lives of the families, friends, and communities connected to all the young people involved. This galvanized the CRP’s effort to address the social and economic challenges that often lead young people into making unhealthy and negative life choices. After surveying youth throughout Oakland, the CRP found that young people’s number one desire was for job preparation. While this could be read as a simple economic necessity, many youth shared that it was more about youth needing to have hope and a vision for their future in order to begin truly overcoming the internal and external barriers to getting a job – particularly jobs that lead to careers. Even more importantly, they felt that hope for one’s future is the key to avoiding negative, self-destructive behaviors in the short term such as fighting, drug abuse, depression, and more.
Through collaborating with youth, the CRP evolved into the Chinatown Youth Center Initiative (CYCI) and developed the vision for a multi-service youth center, called The Spot, open to all youth with a focus towards API youth ages 14-24. The mission of The Spot is to support the success of youth and young adults by fostering their emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual health through holistic, coordinated, youth-driven resources and opportunities. The Spot’s purpose is to prevent violence and foster healthy transitions into adulthood by promoting positive youth development through activities that build young people’s competence in multiple arenas, as well as develop their confidence, connection to people and institutions, character, and compassion. The theme is “Ready for the Future” and The Spot’s culturally attuned activities includes tiered mentorship, leadership roles, and internships for youth to gain knowledge and skills in health and wellness, history and culture, job training/college readiness, and leadership. After 3 years of planning and fundraising, the CYCI launched the beta phase of the youth center in March 2011. The programming and services are currently being offered at various sites throughout Oakland Chinatown. The long-term goal of the CYCI is to develop a permanent site in Oakland Chinatown for The Spot, where all the programs and services can be centrally located and coordinated to provide a web of support and opportunities for youth and young adults.