Home News Center NJJN Fellow Erin Keith Energized to Empower Girls of Color

NJJN Fellow Erin Keith Energized to Empower Girls of Color

December 5, 2017


Detroit native Erin Keith is a 2017-18 fellow in NJJN's Youth Justice Leadership Institute (YJLI), a year-long program that aims to create a more effective foundation for the juvenile justice reform movement by supporting and promoting a strong base of well-prepared advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies.

Erin studied at Howard University and received her B.A. in Political Science in 2013. From there, she went on to obtain her J.D. from Georgetown Law in 2016. While in law school, Erin taught a human rights course for a year at Dunbar High School through Georgetown's 1L Pro Bono Project. She also served as Attorney General for the Black Law Students Association, as Senior Editor of the Georgetown Journal of Law and Modern Critical Race Perspectives, and as a Student Attorney in the Juvenile Justice Clinic. In 2016, Erin was published in the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy.

About Erin’s advocacy project

Erin’s advocacy project for the Institute is called the L.O.U.D. Brown Girls initiative. Her goal is to empower girls of color who have been involved with the juvenile justice system and to transform the system by advocating against the overcriminalization of minority girls. In a society where young women of color are often stereotyped as loud, angry and resistant, Erin’s initiative will demonstrate that these characteristics are needed skills for passionate system reformers.

L.O.U.D. Brown Girls will host a series of interactive policy workshops on issues affecting system-involved girls to give teenage participants the tools to advocate for themselves. At the end of the workshop series, the girls will have an opportunity to share their recommendations with system stakeholders and create a social media campaign about girls in the juvenile justice system.

“It is our duty as advocates, not only to fight on behalf of the youth we serve, but also to fight with them, by giving them the information, training and confidence to lift their own voices against overcriminalization,” Erin said.

Erin says she became invested in lifting up the unique needs of girls of color as a 3L law student in Georgetown’s Juvenile Justice Clinic.

“I had a lot of young girls as clients, and I saw a lot of myself in them. Some of the challenges they were facing such as bullying and not knowing where to turn in certain situations…,” Erin shared.

She envisions her advocacy project as a way to highlight the needs of young girls of color, who often times are not front and center in the juvenile justice reform movement. Erin plans to execute her project through partnering with diverse advocates to develop eight, trauma-informed workshops. She’s also currently creating a streamlined process for introducing young girls to the initiative and making them feel included immediately.

What got Erin into youth justice reform?

Erin’s interest in youth justice reform was sparked by a conversation she had as a teenager with her cousin who has been serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole since he was 19. 

“My cousin called the house to speak with my father, but got me instead,” she recalls.  The two talked about their passion for running track, something Erin’s cousin did in high school before he was incarcerated. “I just couldn’t believe that someone who shared my same interests had already been in jail for so long for something he did when he was so young and that he would never get out, no matter how he grew or changed.”

Erin strongly believes that juvenile and criminal justice reform is the civil rights issue of our time and is thankful to be a part of the movement.

“I would like to have kids one day and I could not imagine bringing children into this world knowing I didn’t do anything to fix a system that too often deprives youth of their childhood,” Erin said.

What drew Erin to YJLI?

“It’s nice to connect to other advocates of color who have shared experiences and are able to relate to your perspective, can appreciate your struggles, and help you through challenges you may face as a person of color doing this work,” Erin said.

What’s your dream youth justice goal?

“I would love to create a world where youth are not charged as adults. “

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L.O.U.D. Brown Girls is set to launch in March of 2018.

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