The Fresno Boys and Men of Color (BMOC) was launched in 2012, evolving into the new program, REP 559, which has expanded to become a more gender-inclusive space.
During its 9 years, BMOC sought to improve the life outcomes of young men of color by engaging them in issues that directly affect their health and wellbeing. Their first-hand experiences and deep knowledge of their communities position them to be powerful advocates. The program built on this native power by polishing leadership and advocacy skills, and connecting youth leaders to partner organizations and elected officials.
BMoC was grounded in the development of deep and lasting relationships. Healing circles were held monthly, and the annual Central Valley Regional Camp brought youth from Merced, Fresno, South Kern, and Cutler-Orosi together to build brotherhood and leadership skills. BMoC youth leaders implemented a number of successful campaigns on diverse social justice issues that led to critical policy changes as well as events that brought the community together. These included:
- In partnership with Fresno Building Healthy Communities, mounting a social media campaign to improve Fresno’s parks – key community gathering places that contribute to the wellbeing of youth and their families.
- Upgrading Fresno’s public transit system, FAX, for those communities who most rely on it. The What the FAX? campaign was featured on Youth Today as well as yli’s blog.
- Ensuring that SB 190 – the law that wiped fees for juveniles caught up in the justice system from the books – was enforced throughout the county. The story was shared on yli’s blog.
- Establishing the City of Fresno Youth Commission in 2016, featured in this Medium article.
- Creating the Fresno Police Chief’s Youth Advisory Council, highlighted in the above video.
- Advocating, as part of a broader coalition of Fresno BHC partners, for the Safe Schools Resolution, ensuring that Fresno’s Unified School District protects undocumented students, shared on ABC 30 Action News and in this Fresno Bee article in 2017.
- Creating a space for the community to heal together through Dia de Los Muertos community altars. BMoC’s 2016 altar was spotlighted in local TV stations ABC 30 Action News, Univision 21, Central Valley Today, and CBS 47 Eyewitness News, as well as this Fresno Bee article. The 2017 altar was featured on TV station KSEE 24.
In addition to local civic participation, Fresno BMoC was part of a larger statewide initiative advocating for policy change that improved health and life outcomes for boys and men of color.
As BMOC has evolved over the years, our table has grown more inclusive. Youth of color who are non-gender conforming and/or who are queer have found a home at our table. In response to the needs of youth of color in our community and shifts in youth organizing, we are transforming into an all-gender inclusive space. During this transformation, young people have and will continue to be engaged in designing what this new space will look like and how it will function.
We will continue to be a space of healing for youth of color: to center their voices and lived experiences; to foster their personal growth and power; to mentor and meet them where they are at; and to organize and advocate with them and for youth of color.
Launched in the fall of 2021, the new program is called Redefining Equity through Policy (REP 559).