California Civic Engagement Initiative


The Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative is a California statewide collaboration between the Martin Luther King Jr Freedom Center, Oakland, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Bakersfield, CA. Youth of the Greater East Bay and the Central Valley study and practice principles of nonviolence, developing leadership and civic engagement skills for community problem solving and advocacy in respective regions.

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Low-income rural and urban communities share a lack of trust and understanding of government and civic institutions. A participation gap in the absolute level of participation, and the inequality of participation, are both linked to the quality of democratic governance required for meaningful community-based problem solving. Lack of citizen engagement directly fuels recidivism, truancy, alienation in foster care, unemployment rates, food deserts, health and mental health gaps, homelessness, transience, violent crimes, disruptive social affiliations, and decaying streets and infrastructure. These indices propel mistrust in government and disenfranchisement from relationships and mechanisms for constructive community engagement.

Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center
Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center

Intergenerational community-based civic engagement and civic learning connects young people with solutions to these perplexing realities. The benefits and merits of voting, volunteering, serving and taking on an active role in community problem solving are well documented. They extend from positive impacts on social-emotional learning, self-esteem, public speaking, team-building skills, and academic achievement on the personal level, into the broader fabric of community: stronger participation, inclusion, cooperation, and equity—basic tenants of democracy.

Cohort members will participate in civics classes and trainings: out-of-school civic engagement leadership classes, on-going school and home visits, participation in civic projects in collaboration with community-based organizations and local agencies. Participants will simultaneously select to be a part of civic engagement of their choice including integrated voting, public education, and school to civic engagement pipeline activities.

Public Speaking

As an expression of the civic engagement and advocacy work at the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, our staff and students are available for speaking engagements on a wide range of community engagement and organizing themes. Please contact our office today if you are interested in a speaker visiting your school, faith institution, work site or other community gathering!

For more information please contact:

Dr. Karen Bohlke, Director Government and External Relations Martin Luther King Jr Freedom Center
w: 510-434-3988