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#NJJNForum2019 Recap

August 9, 2019
Courtney M. McSwain

Young leaders from Ohio's Juvenile Justice Coalition at #NJJNForum2019. 

On July 22nd - 24th, 2019, NJJN held #NJJNForum2019! This year, Forum focused on “Modeling Youth-Led Advocacy,” in Washington, D.C. We were thrilled to welcome over 100 of our members, including over 30 young justice leaders. Over the course of three days, our work focused on deepening our understanding of what it means to put young people at the center of the youth justice movement, particularly using an anti-racist approach. Here’s a photo recap of this year's Forum.

Day 1: Advocacy, Training & Embodied Leadership

On Monday, July 22nd, the Forum began with a briefing from Rachel Marshall of the Campaign for Youth Justice, who prepared members to make visits to their state congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. Others spent the afternoon strengthening their advocacy and fundraising skills in training sessions. Alyson Clements, NJJN’s Director of Membership and Advocacy led an “Introduction to Advocacy,” session and Alex Danesco of Boston’s Citizens for Juvenile Justice helped NJJN members gain new strategies for fundraising. Rusia Mohiuddin, Founder and Principal of Universal Partnerships, led members through an "Embodied Leadership" workshop, which helped them draw a deeper connection between their personal values and social change leadership. Many of the Forum's young justice leaders spent the day at the renowned National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

“Introduction to Advocacy,” session facilitated by Alyson Clements, NJJN Director of Membership and Advocacy.  

“Peer Fundraising,” facilitated by Alex Danesco, Citizens for Juvenile Justice Development Director.

“Embodied Leadership,” facilitated by Rusia Mohiuddin of Universal Partnership.

Day 2: Pursuing Anti-Racism & Celebrating Leaders

On Tuesday, July 23rd, NJJN members gathered for a targeted day on pursuing anti-racism in our work. Young leaders Iliana Pujols and Alani Rouse started the day with an icebreaker and established important agreements of discussion to maintain dignity and respect throughout the day. Facilitators Makani Themba and Maggie Potapchuk of Higher Ground Change Strategies then led participants in a series of exercises and discussions aimed at unpacking the importance of using an anti-racist approach to youth justice transformation. Designed to emphasize interaction as well as discussion, several activities got participants on their feet and tackling complex issues with creativity. Rusia Mohiuddin of Universal Partnership also helped members with a self-care clinic.

The day was interactive with skits demonstrating the ways in which racism pervades youth justice work and the lives of youth.

During the day, Forum participants shared ways that organizations are progressing towards anti-racism.

After a long day, a celebration was in order! On Tuesday night we held our awards ceremony and open mic night, which was emceed by Young Leaders Anthony Robles, Joasiel Gonzalez and Irving Alvarez of Youth Justice Coalition L.A. Among the winners was Alani Rouse, from the Youth Justice Project in North Carolina who won the first ever Young Justice Leader Award. Kathy Wright, Executive Director of the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus received the Betsy Arnovits Gutsy Advocate For Youth Award, and Nubia Pena, attorney formerly with the Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys won the Youth Justice Emerging Leader Award, which was dedicated in name to Amber Evans.


Alani Rouse won the first ever Young Justice Leader Award.

The best emcees! Young Leaders Anthony Robles, Joasiel Gonzalez and Irving Alvarez of Youth Justice Coalition L.A.

Young Leaders kept the energy flowing during our open mic! 

Day 3: A Path to Youth-Led Advocacy

Wednesday, July 24th, our final day, focused squarely on charting a path for youth-led advocacy. Following an issue breakfast with many of our national legislative partners, NJJN’s Young Leader Coordinator Cadeem Gibbs and young leaders led panel discussions and break-out sessions that modeled adult-youth partnerships in mentoring, building power, organizing and emerging adult leadership. Collectively we mapped national youth justice wins across the country and worked together in justice issue labs. During the issue labs, members worked through specific issues by identifying a vision for justice, policy recommendations and creating a strategy for achieving the vision. Specific issues discussed were: 1) ending the school to prison pipeline; 2) addressing gun violence; 3) preventing youth arrest; 4) treatment of youth as adults; 5) protection of immigrant youth; and 6) Native youth justice. Lastly, the day ended with a farewell (but not goodbye!) to Sarah Bryer as she prepares to step down from her role at NJJN.

Morning kick off on Wednesday with NJJN’s national legislative partners including Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth; Campaign for Youth Justice; Center for Children's Law and Policy; Human Rights for Kids; Juvenile Law Center; National Juvenile Defender Center; and YouthFirst!

Iliana Pujols (middle), Director of Community Connections at Connecticut Juvenlie Justice Alliance, shares her experience as a young leader within the youth justice movement.

Young leaders from the Youth Art & Self Empowerment Project (YASP) share their experience as advocates within the youth justice movement. 

Tyler Williams shares his experience as a young leader working with youth advocacy group Progeny and Kansas Appleseed.

#NJJNForum2019 marked Sarah Bryer's (left) last Forum as Executive Director. We wish her the best and thank her for her leadership! 

Thanks to all who made the 2019 NJJN Forum the best one yet! For more photos, visit our Flickr page.

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