Home News Center Aneesha Tucker Shares The Importance of Amplifying Marginalized Youth's Stories

Aneesha Tucker Shares The Importance of Amplifying Marginalized Youth's Stories

January 28, 2021
Anna November

Photo of Aneesha Tucker, NJJN Young Justice Leader Profile

Why is it important for you to advocate for youth justice transformation?

I deeply believe that we should be investing in the lives of Black, Brown, Indigenous youth, especially those who are impacted by the carceral system. We need to invest in these communities so that we can divest and dismantle capitalism, racism, sexism, and the homophobic systems that work to put youth into the carceral system and stifle their potential and that of the larger community. If we don't invest in the youth, we're doing ourselves a disservice; not only because the lives of Black, Brown and Indigenous youth are inherently valuable, but also their dreams, their experiences and their aspirations are important for us to tap into. It's our job to amplify their voices and create an environment where they can succeed.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on with Emancipate NC?

I've written articles about imagining alternatives to the regular occupation of law enforcement in schools. I also manage some of the logistics of the Justice League, which is being supported by NJJN’s COVID-19 Youth Justice Rapid Response Fund. The Justice League has the aim of mobilizing and training youth and other directly impacted people to take action to emancipate children from detention. I organize with the Justice League and I'm hoping to write more blog posts and articles about how I personally learned how revolutionary work is healing work.

Have you learned any lessons about youth justice or social justice work that you think are helpful for youth advocates to know?

I think the most important lesson is that we're always a student and there's always more to learn; but [also] that our voices and our learned experiences are important and valuable. Instead of calling myself an activist or anything like that, I like to call myself a student of abolition, a student of justice work, a student of organizing and coalition building, because I still have so much to learn from my community, my peers, ancestors and more seasoned organizers. And that's OK, because our intimate community work and the work that we do on a micro level is just as important as national macro-level work; each of them are intertwined.

What's the biggest challenge you've experienced as a young leader for youth justice?

My biggest challenge was feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by how much information is out there or how large an issue is. Sometimes issues can seem very insurmountable. How do you take on the carceral system when it's been so embedded in our nation? There's so much discourse, so much to read that it can all feel like a lot, because it is all so important. We should be patient and gentle with ourselves.

How do you take care of yourself as a young leader?

I think that a lot of my care comes from having a really good community and a good chosen community that I surround myself with. I feel like the most important part of this work is having that community— having people to encourage you and share with you, and you in turn share with them. The violence that we experience daily can feel so isolating, but having that community there helps it feel like you're not alone.

Is there someone you look up to as a role model/motivator? (if so, who and why?)

I really love the work of Adrienne Maree Brown, the author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good and Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds . I really value their work on emergent strategy and how they inform how to strengthen communities in a social justice lens. And by extension, I appreciate Octavia Butler, the author of Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, for influencing that within Adrienne Maree Brown and also creating this wave of Black women and Black queer people creating science fiction and new worlds— reimagining and reconceptualizing the past, which is something essential to abolitionist practice and central to youth justice work, because a lot of science fiction is something we're introduced to as youth. I feel like they expand my reach in terms of what I'm thinking about and what I should be thinking about in terms of what my politics are.

What is your vision of youth justice?

My vision for youth justice is speculative. It's informed by abolition practice, like ending the carceral system and all the systems that uphold it. It’s a world where the most oppressed are the ones who create the world, create the story. I feel like that world would be very bright and vibrant as a result.

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