South Kern Sol, News Report, Randy Villegas
Local youth and civic leaders from around Kern County took part in a training earlier this month that organizers say is part of an effort to help foster healing through culture.
“Traditions and gifts are carried on through generations,” explained Mario Ozuna-Sanchez of the National Compadres Network (NCN), which helped organize the event, La Cultura Cura, or Culture Heals. “However, sometimes baggage and emotional trauma can also be passed on as well.”
Ozuna-Sanchez adds that rather than relying on incarceration, medication and isolation to deal with the “bad kids … we should strive to understand what happened to disconnect them from their sacredness.”
The training brought together some 50 youth mentors, nonprofit organizers, behavioral specialists, and students. The event is the first in a planned three-part training. Upon completion, participants will be able to facilitate their own healing circles throughout Kern County.
“We typically introduce ourselves by handing out a resume, and sitting in a class style setting,” said Sanchez to the group. “Today is different.” Sanchez then took out a wooden staff inscribed with the word “Palabra” on it, which in Spanish means “Word.” As each person held the staff they spoke about what they represented: families, hometown, work, and ancestry.
“I have trouble as to how I should talk to people,” said Alfonso Rosel, a participant and youth mentee with Garden Pathways and Sons and Brothers. He said the training helped him better understand how to approach and resolve conflicts. “I should think and then react on how to resolve problems first, before just acting out on them.”
Ozuna explained that everyone’s culture is different, urging participants to move beyond blanket statements that generalize whole groups. Sanchez illustrated his example by asking how many people ate white menudo vs. red menudo. Culture clashes quickly became apparent between participants about which was the “real menudo.”
“My son is going through things at home, and this information is something I can take back to him … I believe everyone needs to have a way to release their anger in a positive way,” said Carol Harris with the Ebony Council Center and Clinica Sierra Vista. She described the experience as inspirational, specifically on how to speak to her son.
Ozuna told participants about the many individuals who have held the staff they were now passing among themselves. Some laughed when they held it, he said, while others cried or clutched it hard to themselves because they felt like they were breaking inside. The staff, he continued, has been all across the United States.
“All of those individuals offered a part of themselves just like you,” said Ozuna. “And now it represents South Kern, Bakersfield, Lamont, and Arvin.”