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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 14, 2002 - Issue 76


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by The California Wellness Foundation

Raja Rahim (San Francisco), Wayne Sakamoto (San Diego) and Joseph A. Myers (Santa Rosa), Awarded $25,000 Each for Violence Prevention Work

San Francisco, CA - The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) will present its tenth annual California Peace Prize Award to three violence-prevention advocates. The honorees are Joseph A. Myers of Petaluma, Raja Rahim of San Francisco and Wayne Sakamoto of San Diego. Each will receive a $25,000 grant in recognition of their work and achievements at a ceremony in San Francisco on Friday, December 6.

"This year's awardees recognize that violence can be prevented through hard work and commitment," said Gary L. Yates, TCWF president and CEO. "The California Peace Prize recognizes their tireless work and ability to prevent violence to ensure healthy futures for all Californians."

Each of this year's awardees has influenced hundreds of lives through their bridge-building strategies and innovations. Myers, working through the National Indian Justice Center (NIJC), provides legal education and
technical assistance to tribal governments to address issues outside state jurisdiction. Rahim, who is a survivor of domestic violence and abuse, brings together multiple, service-providing systems to better serve families through a national initiative, the Greenbook Project. Sakamoto, working with the San Diego County Department of Education, responds to the violence prevention needs of communities by implementing conflict resolution and gang prevention programs within schools.

Joseph A. Myers
A member of the Pinoleville Band of Pomo Indians, Myers grew up in Mendocino County on the Pinoleville reservation. He attended local schools and later served as an officer for the Oakland Police Department and the
California Highway Patrol before earning a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975.

After graduating from law school, Myers took a position with the American Indian Lawyer Training Program, a national training and technical assistance program in Oakland for tribal governments. A commitment to improving and professionalizing the tribal court system, the judicial institutions of tribal government mostly located in Indian reservations, still inspires Myers today, as he heads the NIJC, an organization he helped create. NIJC offers technical assistance to tribal governments and delivers monthly training sessions around the country on legal topics that include criminal procedure, Indian housing law, juvenile justice, domestic violence, and other areas of concern.

"Violence in Native American communities is on the rise," Myers said. "The mission of NIJC is to help Native Americans improve their communities and reduce violence by developing the tribal court systems and providing equal justice at the reservation level."

NIJC will soon launch the Regional Justice Center. The Center will teach youth, ages 14 to 21, about laws that affect them and provide computer and job-skills training.

Myers also dedicates his time to the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa, which focuses attention on historical and contemporary issues of racism and diversity through lectures, storytelling and demonstrations. Myers hopes the museum will help debunk stereotypes of Native Americans and inspire youth to think positively about differences and diversity.

Raja Rahim
As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, Rahim knows firsthand the enduring impacts that such violence has on women, children and families. She draws upon her personal experience to counsel and reach out
to families in San Francisco.

Her work spans more than 10 years and includes volunteering for numerous organizations, including W.O.M.A.N. Inc., San Francisco Women Against Rape, and Mu'akhah, a newly formed Islamic social service organization focusing on families, women and children. Rahim also served as an outreach worker for the San Francisco Neighborhood Safety Partnerships project, where she brought together community members and police to address public safety and violence. Recently, Rahim joined the staff of the Greenbook Project, a national initiative being tested in San Francisco to address the intersection of child welfare, courts and domestic violence. The new position builds upon the trust she has earned from the communities she serves, the respect she has garnered from the governmental agencies most frequently involved in domestic abuse, and the wisdom she has culled from personal experiences.

"Everyone has a part," Rahim said. "Everyone is connected to the family. The systems need to communicate with one another so things can change. Domestic violence crosses all lines and doing work to prevent it means
crossing all lines."

Rahim has also contributed considerable time to creating a common understanding of the needs of domestic violence victims among people with religious beliefs. As a Muslim, she has helped clarify common misunderstandings of Islam regarding women. She assisted in the organization of the first interfaith conference on domestic violence in 1999 and shortly thereafter organized a series of dialogues at the San Francisco
Muslim community center on domestic violence.

With the spare time she has, Rahim sings with a jazz quartet, writes about her life and acts in plays with a local alternative theater group, Soapstone Productions.

Wayne Sakamoto
Sakamoto's 15-year commitment to violence prevention stems from the challenges he faced as a third-generation, Japanese-American growing up in a rural community. The son of two internment camp detainees, Sakamoto learned early the consequences of hatred and bigotry. In his violence-prevention work, he battles what he sees as one cause of violence: hate.

Sakamoto was instrumental in developing and implementing a nationally recognized program, Project COURAGE (Community Organizations United to Reduce the Area's Gang Environment), which began in Riverside and trains community members and college students to provide prevention and intervention programming in their communities. The program has served thousands of youth since its inception in 1989 and is still running today.

In his current role as the coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education Safe Schools Unit, Sakamoto designs and implements violence prevention programs for school districts with both small- and large-scale needs. He has developed the Violence Prevention/Intervention Team and has assisted in the implementation of Foster Youth Services, School Community Policing and the Gang Risk Intervention Program. Believing that youth must be partners in the effort to prevent violence, Sakamoto frequently incorporates leadership training in his programs.

"We are all, including youth, involved in creating positive outcomes for young people," Sakamoto said. "We are all part of the solution. As program people, the best that we can hope for is to instill hope in kids."

Having provided support in the aftermath of the Santana High School shooting, Sakamoto emphasizes that school violence, while carried out on a school campus, is really an issue of community violence. This belief guides the design of his programs, which reach out to include both family and community.

Myers, Rahim, and Sakamoto will be joined by TCWF staff and grantees of the Foundation's Violence Prevention Initiative at the San Francisco ceremony.

"Each of these leaders, without expecting any reward, has worked tirelessly to prevent violence and improve the lives of thousands of Californians," said Sandra J. Martínez, TCWF program director for the Violence Prevention
priority area. "These three leaders help people develop the tools needed to solve problems, avoid violence and create safer communities."

The California Wellness Foundation is an independent, private foundation created in 1992, with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and
disease prevention. The Foundation provides funding in eight priority areas: Diversity in the Health Professions, Environmental Health, Healthy Aging, Mental Health, Teenage Pregnancy Prevention, Violence Prevention, Women's Health, and Work and Health. It also provides health-related funding through its Special Projects Fund. The Foundation has awarded 2,829 grants totaling more than $377 million since 1992. Please visit TCWF's website at for more information.

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