Home News Center Anti-Racism Resource: Movement Building and Youth Justice

Anti-Racism Resource: Movement Building and Youth Justice

June 30, 2022
Courtney M. McSwain

Our youth justice movement ultimately aims to create safety for whole communities so that young people are free to grow into the beauty of their full selves. Achieving such a vision means understanding our connectedness in the larger movement for social justice and dismantling white supremacy. Though our specific work targets transformations in the youth legal system, it is impossible to separate the impact of other systems of oppression that affect youth and adults alike. The overturning of Roe v. Wade highlights the risk of criminalization facing youth who become pregnant, as well as how pregnant and parenting youth experience school
pushout. The mass shooting at an Uvalde elementary school reminds us that our work to end police in schools must take place within a holistic conversation about who and what defines safety in our communities. Our efforts to dismantle the mental health-to-incarceration pipeline connects us to healthcare justice.  

Our work is most powerful when we see ourselves as part of the larger fabric of movement building toward a society that values the interconnectedness of our humanity. To help us ground our youth justice advocacy in the broader social justice movement, we’ve gathered some resources that introduce the fundamental aspects of movement building. These resources, of course, scratch the surface. We hope they spark conversations about how our movement deepens the intersectional approach to our work.   

Movement Building & Youth Justice Readings: 

  1. “What is Movement Building? How you can help build strong movements for social justice.” Website: Everyday Activism Network. Accessed June 28, 2022.  
    This helpful breakdown by Everyday Activism outlines the elements of social movement building, including the central tenet of building “people power.” In contrast to single issue-based or short-term campaigns, movement building sets the foundation to change systems at the root. This explainer details how all the elements of movement building come together, including policy advocacy, grassroots activism, media advocacy and other efforts. The brief also shows the life cycles of social movements, an essential inclusion so as not to be dissuaded but rather prepared for the ebbs and flows of movement building.

  2. Building Social Movement Infrastructure. Grassroots Policy Project. Accessed June 28, 2022, via racialequitytools.org.

    This brief underscores the need for working across silos in progressive movements with an eye toward long-term power analysis and strategic goals related to economic, social and racial justice. It analyzes flawed movement-building approaches that focus only on short-term objectives and are not grounded in racial justice. Further, the brief highlights the importance of clearly stating a movement’s vision.

  3. “Our Relationships Keep Us Alive: Let’s Prioritize Them in 2018,” by Ejeris Dixon. Truthout.org, February 8, 2018. Accessed June 28, 2022, via racialequitytools.org. 

    This article from 2018 offers lessons on repairing and preventing harm within movement building spaces. We must remain diligent about building relationships within our advocacy based on our values and avoid the trappings of interpersonal harm. Dixon’s op-ed also helps us think deeply about ensuring our movement doesn’t perpetuate more harm against justice-impacted communities and young leaders by neglecting healing and transformative conflict resolution within our own spaces.

  4. The Practices of Transformative Movements. Movement Strategy Center. 2016. Accessed June 28, 2022, via racialequitytools.org. 

    This publication breaks down four elements of transformative movement building: 1) leading with audacious vision and bold purpose; 2) deep embodiment; 3) radical connection and community; 4) strategic navigation. These four elements emphasize the need to go deep in our connections and practices that set the foundation for the fundamental power shifting we seek. 

  5. “Roe vs. Wade: What does it mean for young people in Minnesota?” by Marcus Pope, President of Youthprise. Published June 28, 2022 via LinkedIn. 

    Marcus Pope, president of Youthprise, offers a personal reflection on leading a youth equity organization and addressing broader social justice issues that impact youth while navigating various stakeholder opinions. Pope’s reflection gives insight into the ways in which young people’s lived experiences are not segmented by issue.

What would you like to see covered in NJJN's anti-racism resource article next? Email mcswain@njjn.org to let us know! 

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