Home News Center #NJJNForum2018 Recap

#NJJNForum2018 Recap

July 24, 2018
Celine Castronuovo

For a look at more moments from our annual forum, search #NJJNForum2018 on Twitter and Facebook. You can also view our photo album.

Monday, July 16th: Racial Justice Field Trips and Demanding Justice for Niecey

After a day of field trips focused on civil rights history in North Carolina, NJJN members and youth leaders gathered outside of the Durham County Detention Facility for a vigil in honor of Uniece “Niecey” Fennell, a 17-year-old who died while being held on a $5 million bail in the adult facility. NJJN, in collaboration with our member the Youth Justice Project and other national partners, sent a letter to the Durham County Board of Commissioners, demanding an end to the practice of housing youth in adult jails.

Tuesday, July 17th: Forum Opening and Awards

On the first official day of our forum, we welcomed members at the Duke University School of Law. We began with an opening panel focused on North Carolina’s history of organizing and what it takes to build an intersectional movement around youth justice reform. The panel included Rebekah Barber from the Institute for Southern Studies, D’atra “Dee Dee” Jackson from IGNITE NC, Jaclyn Maffetore from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and North Carolina District 30 State Rep. Marcia Morey.

We then went into our first breakout groups of the forum. One of the breakouts, “Positioning Youth at the Head of the Table,” was moderated by NJJN Youth Justice Leadership Institute (YJLI) alumni LaShunda Hill and Jeree Thomas. LaShunda and Jeree, along with youth leaders from Connecticut, Ohio, and California, discussed the forthcoming YJLI toolkit on justice-involved youth and how organizations can develop youth-led movements.

Our second breakout during this session was “Identifying How Systems of Oppression Become Institutionalized in Organizations.” Facilitated by NJJN Executive Director Sarah Bryer, members and youth advocates held a discussion on how structural racism and systems of oppression show up within organizations and how to work together to combat them.

In the third breakout, “Tap into Funding by Tapping into your Confidence,” experienced fundraiser Erin Dale Byrd led participants in exercises designed to name power dynamics at play in asking for donations while providing attendees strategies to overcome barriers to fundraising.

Following the breakout session, we hosted a community conversation on racial justice, where NJJN members discussed with writer and anti-racist activist Tema Okun the role we all must play, both individually and as a community, to combat a white supremacy culture and to place racial equity at the center of youth justice reform.

On Tuesday evening, we held our annual NJJN Awards Reception, celebrating and honoring the work of youth justice advocates and allies.

NJJN Forum Award Winners:

2018 Beth Arnovits Gutsy Advocate for Youth Award Winner:
LaShunda Hill, Director of Legislative Affairs, Families Against Mandatory Minimums

2018 Youth Justice Emerging Leader Award Winner:
Valerie Slater, Executive Director, Rise for Youth (VA)

2018 Awards for Leadership in Juvenile Justice Reform:
Representative Marcia Morey, North Carolina District 30
Brandy Bynum Dawson, Associate Director, Rural Forward NC

2018 Story of Justice Media Award Winners:
Melissa Boughton, Law and Courts Reporter, NC Policy Watch
Kari Travis, Associate Editor, Carolina Journal

Wednesday, July 18: Keynote, Breakouts, and Forum Closing

The day started off with a powerful address from our keynote speaker, civil rights activist James Williams Jr., where he challenged youth justice advocates to acknowledge our country’s past successes and failures in justice advocacy, using that knowledge to push us forward.

We continued the day with breakout sessions.

In the workshop “Navigating the Justice System Maze: Fortifying Public Defense,” we learned how advocates can increase access to public defense for young people in their jurisdictions. Moderated by North Carolina Public Defender Eric Zogry, the panel included Christina Gilbert from the National Juvenile Defender Center, Andrea “Muffin” Hudson from All of Us or None, and Mary Stansell from the Wake County Public Defender’s Office.

In “Defining Safety: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” participants discussed how to maintain safe and supportive classrooms without increasing the presence of metal detectors and armed guards. Peggy Nicholson from the Youth Justice Project moderated the panel, which also included Tavon Bridges from The Youth Organizing Institute , Letha Muhammad from the Education Justice Alliance, the Youth Justice Project’s Alani Rouse, and Jennifer Story from Advocates for Children’s Services in North Carolina.

In our session on gang databases and an anti-immigrant climate, youth leaders Jared O’Brien and Anthony Robles from the Youth Justice Coalition shared their experiences with law enforcement’s dangerous use of gang databases. Moderated by NJJN Senior Policy Counsel Melissa Goemann, the panel also discussed how to fight back against harmful U.S. immigration policies. Other panelists included the Youth Justice Coalition’s Kim McGill, Martha Hernandez from El Comite de Accion Popular, and Sejal Zota from the National Immigration Project.

During lunch, NJJN members had the chance to speak with their colleagues on pressing youth justice issues. Tables were led by various members and YJLI alumni and were divided by different youth justice reform topics, including expungement strategies, juvenile bail, continuum of care, emerging adults, diversion models, and youth transfer.

Later in the day, we had our final breakout sessions.

In the workshop on restorative justice, we heard from NJJN Policy Senior Policy Counsel Melissa Goemann, Restorative Justice Durham’s Annette Love and Kacey Reynolds Schedler, as well as Jon Powell from the Juvenile Justice Mediation Project at Campbell Law School. The panel discussed the benefits of restorative justice practices and the importance of community engagement when developing alternatives to incarceration.

In “No Kid Left Behind: Reforming System Responses to Young People Who Commit Violence,” Susan Dunn from ACLU of SC moderated a discussion on how to reframe justice and change state policies that hold youth accountable in instances of violence. e. The panel included Communities United Youth Organizers Khadijah Benson and Doshawa Irving, Kirstin Cornell from the Delaware Center for Justice, and YJLI Alum Tiffany Williams from the Credible Messenger Justice Center.

We also hosted a workshop on intersectional justice, in which our panelists discussed the best policy practices to support LGBTQ youth, especially those of color, in our justice system as well as how to apply an intersectional lens to organizing in a way that centers the young people who bear the brunt of the system. The panel included Lambda Legal’s Currey Cook, Ames Simmons from Equality NC, and Loan Tran from the Southern Vision Alliance.


Throughout the forum, we asked youth leaders and members to share things they learned that will help them in their youth justice reform advocacy going forward.

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