Desireé Williams, Howard University News Service
African Americans continue to make up a disproportionate amount of the United States prison systems. Although they make up 12 percent of the United States population, African Americans account for over percent of the prison population. In the state of Maryland, African Americans make up over 70 percent of the justice system population. With the disparities that are present in the African American community, Just Us is an organization that sets out to combat mass incarceration specifically in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area, starting with the juvenile detention centers.
Just Us was founded by Jordan Grier and Ahmari Anthony at Howard University’s campus in 2018. Although this organization was founded at Howard, Co-founder Ahmari Anthony stated at their interests meeting that this is not an organization only for Howard students to participate in, but it is one that is open to the community in order to greatly serve the community. This organization aims to help the youth in the prison system by creating a space where the youth can thrive and learn important restorative skills. JustUs sends out volunteers and other members to the Youth Service Center in D.C, to teach them skills for the post detention center. The post detention center serves as a holding place for juveniles who have committed a delinquent action. Just Us focuses on professional development for the participants, as well as, holding recreational events. Desiree Parker, the curriculum coordinator for JustUs said that the organization conducted mock dates, in order to further understand their views on love, and dating and gave them tips on how to date when getting back into the community.
Not only are the incarcerated youth that is involved greatly benefiting from this program, but the people who are involved in this program are greatly benefiting as well. Ava Parker, who is the Digital Committee co-chair said that she learned so much from being involved. “In my time with the organization, I have learned so much about the abolition movement and restorative justice, two things that before I knew nothing about,” she said “Just Us has opened my eyes to so much injustice going on and given me an outlet that I can actively support in .”Anthony shares the sentiment of learning through the program, “It’s taught me the power of love, kindness, and relationships as a revolutionary tool,” Anthony said
This organization has a vision that supports the idea that no youth is left without community and love, and that they all have access to the same opportunities. Just Us members are very passionate and have a love for what they do. “As an organization, it has become so much clearer over time why this work is so important. As we begin to expand, I am grateful for the growth we’ve experienced through educating ourselves on restorative practices as well as the strong relationships we have built,” Grier said.