Young Abolitionists (YA) is a youth-led grassroots collective from Boston that formed in 2012 from a group of friends that came together to build resistance against the prison industrial complex. The first members of YA were three young men of color and though each grew up in a different neighborhood in Boston, they all experienced similar, if not the same, forms of institutional and interpersonal racism from local law enforcement. Whether it was being stopped and frisked weekly on their way to school, being falsely accused of crimes or unwarranted disciplinary actions at school, the constant criminalization of their identity and culture took a heavy toll on them. Because of these particular experiences, they decided that there was an immense need to put a stop to the issue of racist policing, which became the initial focus of YA.
YA works in disenfranchised communities to spread awareness and take action against the destructive effects of the growth of the prison industrial complex and believes that in better understanding this unjust system, we can more consciously avoid the traps set by it, and through increased awareness in our neighborhoods, we can eventually put an end to its driving force, capitalism.
Over the years the group has been able to build through numerous community meetings where we held participatory discussions on topics not limited to the prison industrial complex, like sexism, patriarchy and local grassroots campaigns. We have held movie screenings, giving community members clarity and in depth analysis on the roots and origins of the prison industrial complex, connecting with other groups doing the same work both locally, like Black and Pink, and nationally like the DC Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI) chapter. YA has connected people to the struggle through various workshop topics like; the school to prison pipeline, community building and alternatives to incarceration, knowing your rights and the history of police in America. The group has traveled Boston with these workshops in Boston Public Schools, Boston colleges and universities, and various youth programs. The first couple of years of YA had the Boston activism scene buzzing with enthusiasm with collaboration requests coming in weekly. YA has participated in many campaigns and coalitions such as Jobs Not Jails, Summer With Assata, and the Boston Coalition for Police Accountability.
YA’s vision and mission has developed with the group. Because of our experiences working with such a vast network of people, all focusing on oppression of some form, we started to connect the dots. We still feel as though mass incarceration is an important issue we have to tackle but we have broadened our focus to include issues like poverty, gentrification, and healing. YA wishes to build a new world free of oppression and exploitation, one community at a time.