Nonprofit organizations have played a role in shaping the future of the youth in South L.A. FamliSoul is no different as they have been helping and encouraging young men and women through their various programs since the 90s.
FamliSoul is a grass-roots effort to guide youth who live in areas known for gang violence, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, low graduation rates, and other life difficulties. Its unique mentoring and school-based art programs follow a nine-point curriculum, which teaches youth to accept personal responsibility for their lives. This organization was created by cultural advocate and artist Torrence Brannon-Reese, as a tribute to his mother.
“My mom and the model of the family we had. My mom was a single mother who raised four boys, taught us the value of education, and provided us with a solid foundation without the help of my father. She demonstrated that by bringing us to the library every weekend and encouraging us to read books by Malcolm X, James Baldwin, and various other books about Black figures.”
Reese also highlights that his mother was a social worker, which plays a role in him being an advocate for the youth. His mother helped shape his view on what makes a family as opposed to what Reese was told how a family should look like.
“I wanted to put something together that could help the youth to understand that there is no such thing as an illegitimate family and that whatever family you come from is an honor and should be honored,” he said.
FamliSoul has a program to impact young men called See a Man, be a Man. Reese started this program in 1994, in association with the truth movement.
“My program is embedded into the school system in a nine-point curriculum. This has resulted in a 100 percent graduation rate for the youth. This program has impacted the kids by keeping them out of gangs, away from drugs, better relationships with family, doing better academically, and overall staying out of trouble and on a path of prosperity.” Reese said.
Another program that FamliSoul is offering the youth is the Da Soul of America trip, a week-long visit to New Orleans to experience and learn about Black culture. Dr. Kimbelry Grigsby, Executive Director of FA-MLI, Inc, is in charge of the excursion.
“One thing we learn on this trip is the history and heritage of our people, and we get to realize where our culture began,” Grigsby said. “New Orleans has made a major impact on L.A. and our heritage. One of the Beds & Breakfast we go to is owned by one of the first Black men that acquired land in Louisiana. It has such a rich history that many of the kids can learn about and empower them.”
Reese and Grigsby are also leading the proposed change of Crenshaw Boulevard, co-naming it Crenshaw Blvd./Malcolm X Blvd.
“The idea came from the fact that back in 1986, Harlem was able to rename a street Lenox Ave, as a tribute to Malcolm X. Crenshaw is the equivalent to Lenox as they both run through majority Black communities and we feel like Malcolm should be honored here just like his brother Martin Luther King,” Reese said.
FamliSoul has started a petition for the co-naming change and is asking for people to support and sign the petition. To offer support to Famlisoul and their programs, visit https://tinyurl.com/5n86zd2v.