Mission and Vision
Guided by a prophetic faith, YMPJ's purpose is to transform both the people and the physical infrastructure of blighted South Bronx neighborhoods and change the systems that negatively impact them. Founded in 1994, the mission of Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice (YMPJ) is to rebuild the neighborhoods of Bronx River and Soundview/Bruckner in the South Bronx by preparing young people to become prophetic voices for peace and justice. We accomplish this through political education, spiritual formation, and youth and community development and organizing.
Alexie Torres-Fleming founded Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice as a result of witnessing the destruction of the South Bronx as a child in the in the sixties and seventies. After moving "up and out" of the neighborhood and realizing professional success outside of the community, Alexie felt called to return home in the fall of 1992. While volunteering at her parish's community action group, she helped lead an anti-drug prayer march in front of well-known crack houses in the neighborhood. Two days later, drug dealers retaliated by breaking into the church, committing vandalism, smashing statues and setting several fires. Determined not to let the drug dealers win, a second rally mobilized 1,200 people and resulted in national press attention and the ultimate closing and rehabbing of those crack houses. Soon thereafter Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) was founded as the first and only youth center in a neighborhood of more than 15,000 youth, 50% of who live below the poverty level.
Our vision is the positive transformation of these impoverished neighborhoods, which we work to attain through our mission to re-imagine and rebuild the Bronx River and Soundview/Bruckner neighborhoods by preparing young people to become prophetic voices for peace and justice. We accomplish this mission of inspiring youth through a unique model of political education, spiritual formation, and youth and community development and organizing. As YMPJ values and prioritizes youth and adult voices and leadership in the process of community revitalization, our initiatives involve residents in the planning process in order to ensure that YMPJ's vision for the community coincides with that of its residents. We conduct our work through a three-pronged transformative approach:
Strategy for Transformation
Transforming People YMPJ values and prioritizes youth and adult community leadership in the process of community revitalization. This requires that the basic needs of community residents be met in an atmosphere of dignity that supports their struggle for self-reliance. The following programs support this goal:
- Arts for Activism engages young people in dance, music, muraling, film, poetry and other art activities that focus specifically on the ways in which the arts may be a medium for both personal and social transformation.
- Education for Liberation serves as a source of both academic support and political education. Young people have access to tutoring, homework assistance, and test prep in SAT's and GED. They also have access to our college and reading library as well as support in developing their educational goals. Our political education uses Frierian methodology. Youth and adult residents are also exposed to books, films, and guest speakers who encourage them to engage in the work of social change.
- Wellness encourages a holistic approach to health by exposing youth and adult residents to methods of healing that address their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Alternative forms of healing such as reiki, acupuncture, polarity therapy, meditation and yoga are explored in consultation with health practitioners. Young people also meet in gender specific groups to discuss issues of sexual health, mental health and nutrition and practice healthy living through sports and fitness activities.
- Community Justice Programs offer direct support to youth members, their families and the broader community in immigration, health care access, housing, gaining access to public benefits programs and workforce development.
Transforming Systems YMPJ understands that systemic change is central to building healthy and sustainable communities. As such, YMPJ offers community residents the tools for transformation available through Community Organizing. Over the years, youth residents have led campaigns for environmental justice, police reform, tenant rights, and youth employment. In the near future, this work will expand to include organizing for education and immigration reform and also training a cadre of adults and faith leaders, to partner with youth in this work.
Transforming Infrastructure YMPJ's Community Development and Planning (CDAP) office implements community revitalization and rebuilding initiatives particularly along our Bronx River waterfront. They ensure local community voice and leadership in the planning process and are exploring strategies to prevent local resident displacement through the preservation and development of affordable housing. They are leading the process of building YMPJ’s permanent facilities and working with youth to green the community, create open space and redevelop brownfields.
Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) has as its goal the leadership development and formation of young people for a life of peace and justice. We have found that the key to a successful youth development program is to be able to engage youth and inspire them to leadership through civic participation, while remaining attentive to their multiple developmental needs. Our goal for youth leadership is that it be geared towards civic engagement.