Pasadena's YES Begins a Conversation on Gang Prevention

Pasadena’s Youth Empowerment and Strength (YES) activism group provided a platform for discussion of the rampant problem of gang violence in Pasadena, along with three community leaders.

Published : Thursday, October 5, 2017 | 12:25 AM

(Left to Right): Cesar Pequez, Brett Shears, Horace Wormely, Marlen Castillo, Gerardo Santos, Joanna Escobar, Florence Annang, Kyle Lee, Daniel Torres, Julieta Aragon, LaWayne Williams, Shahar Amitay, Jade Ellison


An organization known as Pasadena’s Youth Empowerment and Strength, or YES, screened the Netflix documentary “They Call Us Monsters,” and then held a panel discussion about combatting gang violence and promoting positive role models for youth last week.

“It’s important that we understand the many ways in which systematic violence and oppression manifests itself, and I believe that being able to reflect on the documentary with distinctive community leaders provided valuable insight into how we may do so,” said Kyle Lee, leader of Youth Empowerment and Strength.

The panel consisted of three community leaders and experts on gang violence: LaWayne D. Williams, Senior Director of Community Relations at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Valerie Slater, juvenile justice attorney and coordinator of the RISE for Youth Coalition, and Daniel Torres, ex-gang leader and reintegration specialist at the Flintridge Center.

From the words of LaWayne D. Williams: “The event was a great experience for everyone. Whenever we, as a community, can come together and discuss issues and solutions that impact lives, it allows us to progress as a society. I want to thank YES for providing a forum to have this conversation, and know that we will continue to work with one another to ensure this is more than just a conversation.”

Among the key solutions discussed between the panel and young people at the event were the easing of juvenile youth’s transitioning from group homes to normalized family life, creating support systems for youth to re-engage them with the education system (which, incidentally, describes Williams’ work at the Tournament of Roses), and mentorship and socialization, even and especially when positive role models are lacking in the household.

Pasadena’s YES looks to work with the Flintridge Center and the Tournament of Roses to continue and to extend the conversation last Thursday on social justice, youth activism, and community leadership.

Youth Empowerment and Strength organizers said in a press release they believe that the answer to preventing gang violence and ensuring that our youth can thrive safely in their homes is twofold: combating ignorance with a greater understanding of the context and history surrounding gangs, and ensuring that youth seek inspiration and leadership from positive role models, not anti-role models.

To do so, the organizers said they hold modules on a variety of topics, ultimately meant to prepare youth to deliver 2-3 minute elevator speeches to politicians in their local counties. This will help bring about legislation that positively impacts the community, they said.

Pasadena’s YES is a youth group sponsored by the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON). For more information, please visit





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