Barni Axmed Qaasim
Digital Organizing Director
Barni is a documentary filmmaker and community organizer with 20 years of experience using digital storytelling to mobilize communities to win campaigns and shift policy.
Since Barni joined the CURYJ team she has expanded the CURYJ vision of a communications department to include storytelling and popular culture strategies. She has recorded and edited videos that have received over 11,000 views on social media. One of her short videos brought in a grant for arts and activism.
Barni brings the same approach she has to documentary filmmaking to her work with CURYJ—those most impacted by injustice are the most qualified to tell their own stories. Barni worked with Dream Beyond Bars fellows to produce their own short films that tell their journey to become young leaders. She believes that telling your story can be both empowering and healing.
Barni reinvisioned the CURYJ instagram account to be a hub for popular education and for organizing. Her vision is for CURYJ to be an online thought-leader for systems impacted young people across California, transmitting important social justice issues to our base including prison abolition and #DefundPolice. Since she started in August of 2019 the CURYJ social media presence has grown 525% and their response rate to communications has tripled. She created CURYJ Moves, an online community to organize protests, digital actions, and rapid response to support young people.
Barni also manages media relations at CURYJ and has brought much needed infrastructure including templates and targeted press lists to the team. She has pitched successful stories with national platforms including The Guardian and Huffington Post.
Barni leads the Digital Organizing team and is committed to their personal growth and professional development. She leads by providing a structure for regular organization-wide assessment, strategic planning, metrics, and infrastructure tools that help their daily work. Barni and Daniel Mendoza are the de facto IT team at CURYJ and have implemented training and IT support for the CURYJ family.
Cristina Flores is the current Program Associate for Homies 4 Justice (H4J) where she incorporates poetry and writing as part of her cultural strategy to develop trauma-informed programming
for systems impacted youth at CURYJ. She became involved with CURYJ in the summer of 2017 as an H4J intern. She is from East Oakland and believes that young people of color should be at the table making decisions to dismantle the criminalization and incarceration they are facing. Cristina has been an organizer since the age of 13 and has worked with Life Skills Advisory, The Xicana Moratorium, 67 Sueños, and Causa Justa | Just Cause. Cristina is currently a college student majoring in Ethnic Studies, while also receiving Communication and Media Training through CURYJ.
Fernando credits his academic success to his mother, whose resilience and willpower led her to flee extreme poverty in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Fernando transferred from Santa Rosa Junior College as part of Berkeley Underground Scholars’ first transfer cohort in collaboration with Experience Berkeley. He is finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley with a major in sociology. Fernando’s area of study ties deeply to his lived experience as an incarcerated youth. He has been selected by the Department of Sociology and Immigrants Rising to conduct research on how undocumented people with “criminal” convictions challenge possible deportation. After completing his bachelor’s degree, Fernando plans to pursue a joint graduate degree program to contribute to the debate and abolition of both the “pol-ice” state and deportation regime. Lastly, Fernando is beyond thrilled to be joining CURYJ. He believes CURYJ has opened the door to cultivate growth and empower those who have survived similar experiences of criminalization and oppression.
Since 1993, George Galvis has promoted restorative justice and healing to transform lives. Galvis is the Co-founder and executive director of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
(CURYJ, pronounced “courage”). He draws from personal experience and his indigenous roots to help young people, particularly those involved in the criminal justice system, become community leaders for positive change.
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Galvis was exposed to profound domestic violence and drug abuse at a young age and experienced racial targeting and systemic violence growing up in his neighborhood. Seeking protection and belonging, he turned to gang involvement and street life. At 17, George was incarcerated and charged with multiple felonies related to his participation in a drive-by shooting. George broke the cycle of violence many incarcerated young men face by investing in his own leadership potential and that of other young people in his circumstances. Galvis’ experiences led to his life commitment as an advocate and organizer for elevating the power of young people most affected by criminalization and violence.
Galvis holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies and a Master’s in City Planning from UC Berkeley where he was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and Public Policy & International Affairs (PPIA) Fellow. He has conducted and published extensive, primary research on alternatives to gang violence utilizing culturally and spiritually based approaches.
Galvis advocates for at-risk youth, prisoners and formerly imprisoned individuals with children. As a board member of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Galvis helped create All of Us or None, which fights for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people and families. He has led statewide advocacy efforts to transform punitive school and juvenile justice policies that disparately impact youth of color and has developed traditional rites of passage programs as healthy alternatives to gang violence. He also serves as the co-Director of the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice (CAYCJ), a broad coalition working collectively to end youth incarceration, youth treatment as adults, and build community capacity for alternatives to incarceration that empower young people in California.
Galvis was a leader of the Stop the Injunctions Coalition, which became the first community organizing effort in the nation to fully defeat a gang injunction in 2015. In addition, George has sponsored numerous state youth justice legislation and is a co-author of California’s Proposition 57 passed by voters in 2016. He has been a keynote speaker and presenter at schools, lock-down facilities, universities and conferences throughout the country and abroad, including the United Nations. George has been recognized by the Bay Area News Group & Comcast as a Hometown Hero and is a recipient of the 2013 California Peace Prize from The California Wellness Foundation.
George’s greatest achievement is his family. He is a loving husband to Catalina Garzon Sandoval and proud father of three beautiful daughters and wombyn warriors in the making Mikaela, Ayacaxtli, and Quillari. His daughters and family inspire him every day to be a better man.
Participatory Defense & Policy Coordinator
At 16 years old, J was processed through adult court and sentenced to 31 years to life in state prison. Told that he would always be a gang member and never get out of prison,
J earned six associate degrees, co-founded a mentoring program for incarcerated youth, created curriculum for two dozen self-help workshops, and volunteered as a staff writer for the prison newsletter. After serving 25 years, J was released in late 2018 but never forgot about the people he left behind.
Today, J organizes individuals facing criminal charges as well as their families to positively impact the outcome of court cases. J also advocates for criminal and juvenile justice reform through coalition building and legislative state policy work. J recently worked on legislative bills that addressed police decertification, Miranda Rights for juvenile interrogation, voting rights for people on parole, and emergency response teams for people experiencing mental health crises and homelessness.
J served on the RAHEEM Advisory Council which collected community input regarding use-of-force encounters by Oakland Police. He is a member of the Justice Reinvestment Coalition Steering Committee as well as a member of the Alameda County DA Accountability Subcommittee. J worked as a frontline worker during COVID-19 while serving the homeless population in Downtown SF and interned in the office of Shamann Walton, SF District 10 Board of Supervisors, where he staffed the Close Juvenile Hall Working Group and participated in the Latino Task Force Violence Prevention/Reentry Subcommittee.
J is a Willie L. Brown Jr. Fellowship and FICPFM Organizing Fellowship Alumni and currently in his senior year at SFSU majoring in Sociology and minoring in Criminal Justice. J is highly motivated to serve his community, particularly marginalized and system-impacted people, as part of his living amends and also because J believes that he is representing all of his fellow lifers still behind prison walls.
Director of Administration
Joan Benoît, Director of Administration, is responsible for the finance, human resources, and administrative functions of CURYJ.
Joan is an enrolled member of the Chippewa of the Thames, First Nation and has over 20 years of experience in non-profit administration including 13 years as the founding Executive Director of the Native American AIDS Project. A lifelong activist and advocate for some of the most disenfranchised individuals and communities, Joan comes to CURYJ with the understanding that a community is only as strong as its weakest members. To uplift these young people and their. communities is a form of protest, and prayer. Joan has lived in Oakland for almost 30 years and is deeply rooted in Oakland’s culture and communities. She and her wife are proud parents to their 5 year old son.
José Luis Pavón
José Luis Pavón is a Life Coach advocating for systems impacted youth and developing their leadership skills to resist racism and poverty. He engages the youth he serves in intersectional organizing, helping
them access policy makers and social movements. José Luis has been a Chicano community organizer for over twenty-five years. During that time he has worked on campaigns that focus on educational justice, police accountability, immigrant rights, union organizing, economic justice, multi-racial solidarity and opposing the mass incarceration of youth. Additionally, he has done extensive social service around youth empowerment, youth development, violence prevention, crisis intervention, non-profit management, and youth employment; specializing in working with high need young men of color. He has experience as an educator teaching La Raza and Ethnic Studies, as well as doing academic support for high need students in English and Mathematics. José Luis is currently completing his senior year at San Francisco State University, where he will receive a B.A. in Economics with an emphasis on solutions to poverty, labor unions and Latin America. He is a proud father of three children, an artist, musician and a lifetime Aztec dancer in the Mexica tradition.
Director of Programs
Linda Sanchez is the Director of Programs overseeing the Homies 4 Justice and Dream Beyond Bars programs.
She provides programmatic support with curriculum development and leadership development, grant management, and mentorship to systems impacted youth. Linda is committed to providing capacity building and professional development to the Program staff who are systems impacted themselves.
Linda brings to CURYJ a wealth of experience in youth organizing, program management, grant writing, social entrepreneurship, and curriculum development. Since her tenure at CURYJ, she has secured unrestricted funding to resume development of the Fruitvale community garden, strengthen coalition relationships with statewide partners, and has increased our capacity to provide essential services to our program participants.
Born in Oaxaca, Mexico and raised in Anaheim, CA Linda most recently served as the Program Director of 67 Sueños, a youth leadership development program for Undocumented/mixed status youth. At 67 Sueños Linda achieved a 100% retention rate, cultivated critical relationships with foundations, expanded community collaborations, and groomed former participants to lead the program after her departure.
In 2015, Linda started her own social enterprise, Fuerza Indigena, to socially and economically uplift the voices of indigenous communities in California. Since then, the project has developed into a language justice co-op comprising eight trained indigenous interpreters across the state of California.
Linda is a UC Berkeley graduate where she received a dual degree in Political Science and Chicano Studies. Her accomplishments while at UC Berkeley include advocating for and winning the first Undocumented Student Resource Program and co-founded the first and only UC Berkeley student housing for undocumented students. Her experiences of being undocumented and indigenous propels her to be deeply rooted in community advocacy and social justice.
Community Organizer & Life Coach
Mike is a CURYJ co-founder and certified life coach that manages the Life Coaching Team for adults and for youth. Mike takes pride in the successes the people he has served
have achieved —like getting off probation, finding permanent housing, and securing good employment. Mike founded the Life Coaching program and was the only life coach for two and a half years until he began recruiting and training other life coaches.
Mike also runs the Community Healing Program where he oversees the regranting program, coordinates with community stakeholders, and builds capacity for local organizers in the San Antonio and Fruitvale Districts. Mike launched and oversees the Aztlan Beautification Movement that includes community mural projects, the Reclaiming Cinco de Mayo block party, and the Fruitvale Community Garden.
Mike has lived in the community his whole life and is responsible for a lot of the outreach and base building at CURYJ. He facilitates activities inside juvenile hall and teaches ethnic studies in Oakland high schools and continuation schools. As an organizer, Mike understands the power of mobilizing locally and he takes it upon himself to organize activities that connect current participants and CURYJ alumni.
In 2018 Mike facilitated a workshop on Restorative Justice at Columbia University in New York. Mike has spoken to local radio outlets, media, and testified at the state capitol before the State Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, and served on the Youth Policy Task Force for the Alliance of Boys and Men of Color. He was also a panelist a Beyond the Bench conference where he directly shared his experiences with Judges, Prosecutors and others in Law Enforcement to give them an opportunity to learn what the impact of certain judicial practices have had on the health and success of boys and men of color.
CURYJ Community Organizer, is a fifth generation Oaklander who is very passionate about creating a better Oakland for young people by developing programs that help them realize their potential for leadership. Mike co-founded CURYJ when he was a defendant in the Fruitvale gang injunction. He became an outspoken leader in the Stop the Injunctions Coalition and plant-based continued to advocate against policies that criminalize youth of color.
Tristan is originally from Louisville, Kentucky. A violist and vocalist by training, she earned her undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University, where she studied Viola Performance and African American & Diaspora Studies.
Tristan relocated to the Bay Area in 2018 and since then has worked with several nonprofits throughout the East Bay and San Francisco centered around young people's leadership and music education.
She believes whole-heartedly in the power of artistic and cultural engagement as catalysts for social change—that's what's drawn her to put down roots in historic Oakland, what inspired her work as a music educator, and what now drives her in her role as Development Associate with CURYJ.
Youth Justice Program Associate
Xochtil Larios is a 20-year-old full-time college student and 2018 recipient of the California Endowment 2018 Youth Award as a Community Champion. She served as the youngest Fellow
of the Peer-to-Peer Initiative through the Community Justice Network for Youth Program of the Burns Institute. She is also a vital youth commissioner on the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission.
Ms. Larios is an accomplished and relentless community activist and leader. She works in the trenches of local grassroots mobilizing, the laboratory of regional program development and execution, and the progressive planning of national restorative justice reform.
As CURYJ’s Youth Justice Program Associate, Ms. Larios brings her own innovative Youth Transformation Curriculum to detained juvenile offenders, co-Facilitates Women Warrior Circles for healing and empowerment, and a respected researcher and advisor in Dream Beyond Bars justice system transformation recommendations.
Breon Hatcher was born and raised in Oakland, California. He is a Dream Beyond Bars fellow at Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice.
Breon has been organizing with CURYJ since 2018 when he started on this journey to end youth incarceration. Breon has organized, co-hosted, and performed at events with hundreds of community members including Oakland's Junteenth Celebration and the Dream Beyond Bars Block Party. In December of 2019 he was choosen to travel to Los Angeles at the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color Convening. He learned about Participatory Defense to help others fight their cases with this method. Breon was selected for the PYJI Youth Leadership Fellowship for 2019 - 2020. In 2020 Breon was part of the Free Our Kids Coalition which was successful in stopping the costly renovation of a youth prison.
Breon has also advocated for policy wins including AB 392 the Act to Save Lives, which established the toughest use of force law against police brutality in the nation. In his activism work he has partnered up with San Jose youth organizing leadership to Raise the Age of incarcerating minors. Breon spent three days in Los Angeles making connections with organizations to pass legislation and mobilize formerly incarcerated young people to win campaigns.
Breon loves the work he does because he can prevent issues that may occur in his community and to others worldwide.
Christopher Quiej was born and raised in Oakland California and is a first generation latino and is a part of the Dreams Beyond Bars Fellowship.
Chris has been a leader at CURYJ since he was 15 years old. Chris led the campaign to end unnecessary in-person probation check-ins during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting all young people on probation in Alameda County. He led a letter writing campaign, spoke out directly to the District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, and wrote an op-ed article for The San Francisco Chronicle.
Chris was a leader in the Free Our Kids Coalition, which successfully convinced the Chief of Probation to stop the costly rebuild of Camp Wilmont Sweeney. Chris was invited to be a guest speaker at the Oakland premiere at the award winning documentary film, The Pushouts. He has spoken on panels on various issues such as improving education in Alameda County and youth empowerment.
Chris began his professional path at 67 Sueños Leadership Development at 14 years old. He started with CURYJ as an intern at Homies 4 Justice and a participant in the Life Coaching program. He is now a senior Dream Beyond Bars fellow and is a mentor to new participants.
Growing up in Oakland Christopher learned a lot from being part of a low-income neighborhood, Chris was exposed to the realities of what people face in Oakland. These experiences are the reason why Chris is dedicated to striving for a better future for his self and his family. Chris is the first to graduate high school in his family and is committed to bring his achievements back to his community.
Hayden Renato is a Dream Beyond Bars Fellow at CURYJ and has been active in the prison abolitionist community since 2018.
He uses his experience as a formerly incarcerated person and former foster child to inform his work. Hayden is also a full-time student at Merritt College and a Youth Board Fellow at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD). Hayden aspires to go to law school and help shape progressive policy change to benefit system-impacted youth through impact litigation and civil rights reform.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hayden has participated in actions to secure the release of prisoners from CDCR and the Santa Rita Jail. He has also played a supporting role in actions, including marches and rallies, to promote Black and Brown unity and dismantling white supremacy. Hayden has been active in holding elected officials accountable during the pandemic by calling and placing pressure on their offices to act responsibly and save lives.
In January of 2020, Hayden attended a 5-day conference on behalf of CURYJ as a delegate to Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) and It Takes Roots (ITR). GGJ and ITR are national cooperatives of many nonprofits who have chosen to work together and exchange ideas for the purpose of building community and forming common progressive goals. Since then, Hayden has been a CURYJ delegate in GGJ antimilitarism workshops and planning meetings.
In 2019, Hayden testified before the California legislature in opposition to bills that give police more power and in support of bills to increase police accountability. He has written op-eds about these trips to Sacramento and about his personal experiences with the police and incarceration.
Also in 2019, Hayden spoke at a conference at UC Berkeley School of Law to an audience of approximately 100 lawyers about his experience in adult jail and the process he went through to represent himself and gain his freedom.
Hayden came to Oakland in 2018 with the hope of finding a community to work and build a future with. He encountered CURYJ in January of 2019 and started volunteering, until he became a Dream Beyond Bars Fellow.
At age 15, shortly after becoming a foster child, Hayden was arrested and taken to adult jail for burning his own belongings outside. Charged with multiple felonies, he was forced to plead guilty and accept a 2 1/2 year prison sentence. He is currently fighting to seal his record and establish precedent in court so that kids can't go to adult jail anymore. He has represented himself in the criminal case and in a federal lawsuit against the state of Arizona and Cochise County to address the injustices that he and several other youth have experienced.
As a child, Hayden lived with his divorced father and stepmother in Seattle, Washington and experienced physical and psychological abuse. At age 14, Hayden was sent away from his home in Seattle to a small town in southern Arizona. He was taken into foster care by the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
All of these lived experiences have informed Hayden's work as an advocate for the rights and safety of young people.