FacultyFaculty/Author Profile
Darris Young

Darris Young

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Local Organizer
Oakland, CA, USA


I was born in Oakland, California, and raised in Berkeley until the age of twelve. My family then moved seven miles to the city of El Cerrito.

Growing up in the city of Berkeley in the mid 60’s and early 70’s, a time when the city was characterized as being radical and liberal, I witnessed with great interest but lack of understanding the riots that took place in Berkeley in 1967 and 1971. It was also during that time period where I witnessed on the streets of Berkeley and North Oakland, members of the Black Panther Party for SelfDefense dressed in their signature black berets and black leather jackets, holding rallies decrying the police brutality that was being practiced on African Americans, and white students alike who were protesting the
Vietnam war, by police departments across the country . It was those scenes that I locked away in my mind as a child growing up in Berkeley that would eventually shape my life towards one of service and activism.

I graduated from El Cerrito High School in 1979 where I played 3 years of varsity football. I was a starter on the 78 team, my senior year, that won the first league title in school history. After graduating from High School. I went on to Diablo Valley Community College for two years (7981) where I earned an AA degree in Social Science, while I continued to pursue my aspirations of playing division one college football.

After graduating from Diablo Valley College I transferred to Washington State University in the fall of 1981, where I pursued a major in Criminal Justice. However my stay at WSU was short lived. I left the school after only one year (19811982) due to my not being able to fulfill my football aspirations. In looking back on my life It was that decision that had a great future impact on the path that my life would eventually travel.

In January of 1985, at the age of 23, I was hired by the Richmond Police Department. Upon my being hired by the Richmond PD I was sent to the police academy at Los Medanos Community College in Pittsburg, California, where I was voted in as the class vice president.

It had become a lifelong dream of mine to become a police officer. That aspiration was born in me out of my witnessing as a young boy the scenes on the nightly news coming out of the South of police beating and sicking their dogs on both black and white Civil Rights protesters. It became my thinking that as an African American police officer I could impact communities of color for the better.

However, my fulfilled dream of becoming a police officer was short lived. Upon graduating from the police academy in May of 1985, I was terminated from the Richmond Police Department after only six weeks into a fifteen week field training period for unsubstantiated allegations brought against me.

My being fired from the Richmond police Department at 23 years of age greatly impacted the course of my life for the worst. For shortly after my termination I became caught up in the Crack Cocaine craze of the mid 80’s. And not to long afterward, my use of Crack saw me having gotten caught up in the criminal justice system so much so that by the time that the state passed it’s 3 Strikes law in March of 1994, I had already amassed three qualifying serious felony convictions.

In July of 1995, while already on parole for what was my second robbery conviction I committed my third robbery. That crime saw me tried and convicted under the 3 Strikes law by Alameda County DA Matthew Gold. In February of 1998, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carl Morris sentenced me to 36 years to life.

In June of 1998, 120 days after I had been given a sentence of 36 years to life, Judge Carl Morris with the blessing of DA Matthew Gold recalled that sentence. In exchange Judge Morris handed down to me a determinate sentence of 20 years. I served 17 years on that sentence, paroling in July of 2012. Moreover, I paroled from prison with 18 years of sobriety. As of today I have been clean and serene for 18 years and 8 months.

While serving my 20 year sentence I earned in 2007 my entry level Substance Abuse Counselor 1 certification from the “Association of Christian Alcohol and Drug Counselors Institute” (ACADC) of Yucaipa, California. And in 2009, I earned through that same institute their Associates degree of Drug, Alcohol and Addictions Counseling.

Since paroling from prison, in March of 2013 I became certified as a Domestic Violence Counselor through Building Futures with Woman and Children of San Leandro. In June of 2013, I became certified as a Youth Violence Prevention/Intervention Street Outreach Worker through Dr. Joseph Marshall’s Omega Boys Club institutes “Alive & Free Prescription For Violence” training.

I am currently pursuing the completion of my full substance abuse counselor certification through the ACADC Institutes Dual Bachelors of Ministry degree program in Addiction Studies. In the fall I will be enrolling in a four year accredited degree completion program still to be determined.

I have interned as a Substance Abuse Counselor in 2012, and 2013, at Oaklands Teen Challenge, and also at Oaklands CityTeam Ministries drug program. I also worked as a student Intern for CityTeam as a Field Outreach Missionary in violence prevention, participating in the Oakland Community Organizations (OCO’S) Life Line to Healing Friday night violence prevention walks in East Oakland. Lastly, In 2013, I interned as a Domestic Violence Counselor/Facilitator at Allen Temple Baptist Churches Domestic
Violence Court program.

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