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  • Writer's pictureMadison Naves

From Behind Bars to Building Bridges: Woman Launches Organization for Transitional-Aged Youth

by Madison Naves | WeINSPIRE Journalist

BIRMINGHAM, AL -- In life, Bridges take people from one location to another. They cross over valleys, roads, and, most often, bodies of water. They help people bypass the tangled dismay beneath them by creating an easy path to the destined location. For many people, bridges can symbolize a crossing over in life—a new path to another life that has overcome obstacles leaving the burden behind. For Joslyn “Inkwell J” Beard, a bridge is precisely the connection needed to help her and others reach destined success.

Joslyn “Inkwell J” Beard. Courtesy of Joslyn Beard.

Beard is the founder of the Los Angeles, CA-based program, Safe Bridges LA (SBLA). SBLA was organized in March of 2021 after six years of working to get it into fruition. SBLA is rooted in uplifting young adults and the formerly incarcerated; Programs include educating youth about violence prevention by teaching them the capabilities of radio broadcast.

Beard uses her experience as a radio host for Dash Radio, Da Poetry Lounge, and Plan-A Radio to help her students create narrative-driven broadcasts. While creating and editing radio dialogues, her students also learn positive ways to express themselves while investigating how society responds to oppression, privilege, and violence prevention. SBLA also provides emotional development and financial resources for incarcerated individuals upon release through career building and family counseling.

Joslyn Beard leading a SBLA class with students. Courtesy of Joslyn Beard.

Beard has been in the progress of building SBLA for over six years. She saw the need for developing her own nonprofit after studying sociology at San Jose State University (SJSU) and working in community services in the Los Angeles area.

In 2010, while Beard was studying at SJSU, at only 20 years old, she was convicted of sorority hazing. She mentioned that her experiences within the Los Angeles legal system subjected her to misrepresentation and under sourcing from lack of financial support, which Beard believes led to a wrongful conviction. She said that although her sentence was not long, her life changed. Upon her release, she says that life was quite the contrary.

“When I got out, I was different; I was discouraged, ” Beard said. “When you come home, you're a lot different; my family tried to treat me as if I was the same, but I wasn’t.”

On top of being misunderstood by family and friends, Beard encountered numerous discouragements from employers refusing to work with an individual who had been previously incarcerated. Despite these setbacks, Beard did not allow this to halt her success. She re-enrolled in school to complete her education and began working in the community service sector of LA. Beard noticed the people who needed the most help were young people throughout ten years of servicing communities. While doing intervention services with level 13 youth (a level within rehabilitation systems before youth reach an age to be sent to a rehab facility), she felt she could do more than what was already available.

Joslyn Beard teaching radio broadcast to students. Courtesy of Joslyn Beard.

Beard has worked for community service organizations such as First To Serve, The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Starview Community Services, and SHIELDS for Families. She has experience as a counselor, case manager, and therapist for young adults and their families facing hardships. Her work has connected families to educational opportunities, career pursuits, and emotional development, among more.

“I realized if we do more to impact the services for young people, we can do more for healthy relationships in the future, ” Beard said. “Maybe 20 years from now, if we work hard to help this generation, their children will have healthier relationships.”

Joslyn Beard (center chair with back turned) interacting with students. Courtesy of Joslyn Beard.

By focusing on healing childhood trauma, Beard felt this was the best way to better society’s progression. Without proper healing, childhood trauma can stay with a person well into adulthood and leave lasting mental and physical health effects. The Cleveland Clinic reported in 2020 that effects could include anxiety, depression, Post-traumatic stress disorder, and greater chances of developing heart disease, cancer, and substance disorders, among other adverse effects.

Beard uses her childhood trauma to help youth understand that what they are going through can be temporary, and there are positive outlets to express themselves and their circumstances. She does this by relating to children and the trending topics that pique their interest most from an educational angle.

Joslyn Beard congratulating a graduate. Courtesy of Joslyn Beard.

“One of the programs I'm currently working on is a social media influencer program, ” Beard said. “I’m teaching them how to use social media to influence the community for good.”

In the last year, Beard has had 50 graduates pass through SBLA after creating a radio program called “This That Stuff.” She is currently striving to build a center for SBLA participants to have shelter when in need and a home for broadcasting. Beard hopes to continue impacting youth in need and resourcing formerly incarcerated individuals with the help of donations. To support SBLA and other LA-based youth, consider donating to the SBLA Go Fund Me today.


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