By Stephanie Younger • 

On Saturday Nov. 3rd, the Richmond community joined RISE For Youth, Art 180, and Performing Statistics, to “honor the voices, dreams and demands of youth affected by the school-to-prison pipeline.” The community, composed of speakers, dancers, singers, poets and other performers gathered outside of Hotchkiss Community Center to raise awareness about school push-out. The Justice Parade For Youth, organized by the youth, for the youth, featured music, chants, and murals all created by incarcerated youth. The young people of RISE For Youth, “a non-partisan campaign in support of community alternatives to youth incarceration,” were the lead organizers of this march.

Here is why I marched for the abolition and closure of youth prisons.

I marched because Virginia has the most referrals from school to prison in America, that Black students face harsher punishment than white students. We are 3 times more likely to be suspended and 7 times more likely to be incarcerated than our white counterparts. Black youth are seen as less innocent as early as preschool.

My natural hair was often viewed as a distraction to my white counterparts. Being the only Black child in the whole grade, I was disciplined for actions my white counterparts engaged in. My white teachers accused me of threatening to kill a white girl, and being aggressive for defending myself from bullying and harassment when I was as young as nine years old. Feeling unaccepted by my white peers and profiled by my teachers, I lost my desire to thrive and excel in school which made me more susceptible to school push out.

Recently, a decision was made to put more school resource officers in Chesterfield County Schools to combat school shootings. Investing in increased security, increased zero tolerance policies and increased metal detectors in schools is wrong. We need to invest in education, mentors, restorative justice, and conflict resolution, not incarceration.

“We want to see more teachers and less police.” – Performing Statistics

Stephanie Younger is a 16-year-old student, organizer and writer who advocates for womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention.

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