OC Justice Initiative: Speak Truth To Power
By Dianne Anderson
Moving to Orange County was a culture shock on several fronts for Justice Crudup, coming from New York where organizations support and motivate each other, in contrast with the high level of local student apathy.
But by 2020, something happened.
Youth everywhere were invigorated and ready for change, but he didn’t see any tools available in Orange County to get educated on their history or their rights, or to teach them how to demonstrate effectively.
Admittedly, there were a lot of white supremacist forces and conservative strongholds to get over, but he said justice must prevail.
Crudup, 30 years old, founder of the OC Justice Initiative, said he was motivated to lead the way for youth who may not have considered Orange County as a place to run for office and speak truth to power.
Before they can aspire to that point, youth must be included into legislative processes. He said BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] youth unity is achievable, and important to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable.
Advancing Black and Brown students through education, and promoting effective organizing on college campuses is their goal toward policy justice.
He is also committed to improving public speaking skills to create better dialogue tools to deal with racially charged conversations that are not stopping anytime soon.
“When they do want to run for higher office and they do confront racial discrimination, racial injustices or discrimination based on sexual orientation, they know how to confront these horrible [situations] by understanding their rights afforded to them,” said Justice Crudup, a political science graduate of Chapman University.
Partners regularly come out to speak at his OCJI events on national, civil and human rights. Last year, they brought the local NAACP to Chapman campus to give students a different perspective on using their voices for social progress. They also brought representatives from the ACLU for students to ask how to self-motivate and get others moving toward justice.
“We do this not only on campus, we do that in local organizations and municipalities. We gave students opportunities to meet different councilmembers. We brought councilmembers on campus that are young, 25 to 35, who had been running for office,” he said.
Students need to see people who look like them and know the importance of collaboration, he said.
OCJI also works with Black Student Unions throughout Orange County, and strategically connects with LatinX, and Asian Pacific Islander (API) clubs. Last year, they hosted “Black History Month is Every Month” college tour in February, collaborating with Chapman BSU, as well as several organizations on various college campuses.
OCJI brought BIPOC student clubs together to raise awareness that Black History Month shouldn’t just be relegated to February. They plan a similar outreach this coming year.
Lately, they are focused on legislation and creating an elective course, working closely with Chapman faculty advisory to conduct research and possible legislative proposals. He hopes it can lead to new policy. Long term, he sees OCJI becoming the first-ever political think tank for youth.
“That’s going to give youth of tomorrow opportunities to run for office, legislate and have their own network to help provide the next generation with internships, externships, and eventually build out our community center,” he said.
The center would provide access to legal rights and other support programs, such as community gardens to provide fresh produce for families who otherwise couldn’t afford it, and building proceeds to help food pantries.
He said they are also excited to work with Run for Something, a national nonprofit.
“They’re amazing, they help the young individuals and provide tools to run for local office, school board, council. Our goal is to give specifically BIPOC youth the tools to not be so intimidated by running for office,” he said.
Connecting BIPOC youth with integrated crisis centers is a priority. They are partnering with one local mental health help organization to address the first line of defense in preventing public safety civil rights tragedies and loss of life.
“Usually the first line of defense is police, but as we see many times, police officers do not treat the mentally unstable well. Sometimes compassionate care makes the difference,” he said.
Until 2020, no one had ever seen so many BIPOC youth wanting to unify. He said OCJI decided to take the initiative to be a resource and continue effective demonstrations, education tools, and opportunities to learn about their history.
No doubt, some don’t want them to learn their history.
“They want to ban this and ban that,” he said. “If we come together as a tribe like we used to back in the day, Black and Brown and Indigenous come together, show power in unity, I think we can leave OC a better place than before.”
For more information, https://www.facebook.com/ocjusticeinitiative/
To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org