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#YJAM2019: Lots of Action for Youth Justice

Posted in 2019 Thursday, 31 October 2019

#YJAM2019: Lots of Action for Youth Justice

Dear Friends and Partners, 

During Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) this October, groups, organizations, and individuals across the country engaged in discussions about youth justice, and about the racism inherent in the youth and criminal justice systems. 

We are happy to report that YJAM was a great success!

The month opened on October 1 as New York officially implemented its “Raise the Age” law, as 17-year-olds on that day moved from adult to juvenile court jurisdiction. As the month closes, the Governor of Michigan has just signed a package of bills that “Raise the Age” in her state.

During YJAM, many of the events and activities were centered around directly impacted people:

  • In Richmond, California, the RYSE Center screened all four episodes of Ava Duvernay’s powerful Netflix series “When They See Us”, and organized other activities 

  • Up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Michelle Hannemann, whose son was tried as an adult at the age of 16, organized two screenings of “When They See Us”

  • In Lake County, Michigan, Veronica Williams, another CFYJ spokesperson and 2018 YJAM Honoree of Mother in the Movement, hosted a community event calling for the end of felony murder as it applies to youth.

  • Travis Hill School in New Orleans, Louisiana, held at Art and Advocacy Night and arranged a visit from National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson

  • Reginald Dwayne Betts, longtime CFYJ spokesperson and former board member, released his second book of poetry, Felon, on October 16th in his hometown of DC. Not too late to buy it here!

  • This weekend In Memphis, Just City will be hosting “Justice Reimagined”, a forum on restorative justice for young male students of color

Efforts to engage entire communities raised YJAM participation to a new level:

  • The city of Baltimore, Maryland, passed a resolution declaring October to be Youth Justice Awareness Month, and proceeded to organize several events across the city, culminating in a “Call to Action” at City Hall on October 29

  • In Cumberland County, New Jersey, a similar resolution was passed, and delivered at a screening of “When They See Us”, also on October 29. Mother in the movement, Tracey Wells-Huggins, founder of Renewed Minds led the charge!

  • Three nights of youth justice themed events – collectively titled “Act, Inspire, Lead: Transforming Youth Justice” – were held at Georgetown University earlier in the month

  • And in Florida trainings in legislative advocacy were held in different cities across the state throughout October

  • Even the U.S. Congress got in on the fun--Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Tony Cardenas, both from California, presented bi-cameral resolutions in support of YJAM!! Do to mass reductions in youth adultification and incarceration, teen homicides in major urban areas in California have dropped 87% since 1990!

The conversation during YJAM was further amplified by podcasts, Tweet chats, and webinars. Each Monday on our blog, guest bloggers highlighted the theme of A.C.T. (Awaken, Confront, Transform) to End Racism:

  • Kat Crawford of CEEAS (the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings) introduced the UnSung contest, now in its second year, in which incarcerated young students created songs that should awaken us all to the harsh realities they face. (You can check out the contest winners here!)

  • Cherice Hopkins from Rights 4 Girls, wrote about the importance of confronting the racism inherent in the way girls of color are treated, particularly girls of color who are victims of trafficking. 

  • Emily Higgins from the Raphah Institute in Nashville, Tennessee, described the restorative justice work being done in that city that seeks to disrupt persistent racial disparities by transforming the way young people are treated in the justice system. And Iliana Pujols with the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance wrote about how the Justice Advisors in Connecticut have transformed the way advocates work to reform and remake unjust systems.

Thank you all so much for your participation in YJAM this year, as it continues to grow  and advocates and activists continue to find bigger and better ways to use the month to accelerate their reform efforts.

We couldn’t do it without YOU!  

Brian Evans
CFYJ State Campaigns Director