Home News Center Kendra Marsh Explains the Importance of Listening to Young People

Kendra Marsh Explains the Importance of Listening to Young People

March 26, 2021
Anna November

Photo of Kendra Marsh and quote:

How did you get involved with youth justice advocacy work?
I was in foster care from 13 to 21, but before I left foster care they asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Youth Advisory Board for Baltimore City. I started doing that for a few years, and then I became a part of the People's Commission to Decriminalize Maryland. I ended up becoming chairperson for the youth work group [of the People’s Commission to Decriminalize Maryland], so that was how I was able to get started with youth justice. 

Why is it important for you to advocate for youth justice transformation?
A lot of youth feel like they do not have a voice. I’m a mentor, and one of my mentees came to me and told me that I gave him hope for Baltimore city. He's not originally from Baltimore, so giving somebody who's not even from Baltimore hope made me want to make progress and do more for them.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on in your youth justice work? 
I've been working with different house bills for Maryland. I worked on House Bill 700 with Sheila Ruth. I spoke about that [bill] at town hall a couple Saturdays ago. I have done open mics, college fairs, I have worked on all different types of events. The open mic we did definitely had me smiling and made me very open minded to what the children were saying. They were talking about their struggles, and I have my own proposal plan to open rec centers, like a safe haven, where children can come if they feel like they’re not safe. At the open mic, the things that [the children] were saying went hand in hand with my proposal plan. 

Is there someone you look up to as a role model/motivator? If so who, and why? 
Mr. Jason and Miss Tiana from the People's Commissions to Decriminalize Maryland. When I first came into the organization, I thought that there were going to be other youth with me, but there weren’t. They pushed me to take the role of chairperson— I always wanted to be chairperson of an organization. We do live events sometimes, and while I'm doing the videos they'll text me “you're doing great, we love what you're saying!”

How do you care for yourself when things get difficult in your work? 
I tend to listen to music, and I open up to Mr. Jason and Miss Tiana. I have family and friends, and I use church as an outlet as well.  

Do you have any tips for young people looking to get involved in youth justice work? 
Whatever ideas you have, come forward with it. It may be something that others have been working on and haven't talked about themselves. You just have to have the confidence to talk about it. Give your ideas, and go with the flow from there.

Is there anything else you want to share with youth justice advocates across the country? 
I want us to have more unity and actually listen to young people. Youth justice advocates have to listen, engage, and really be by the side of youth because we have beautiful ideas. Some people act like youth don't know anything, but if you really sit and listen, we have some beautiful ideas.

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