I've been involved in youth justice issues for more than 20 years now, and one of my most important lessons came from Dr. Vincent Harding, historian, theologian, strategist, and encourager.
Dr. Harding points out that we who work for youth justice are "citizens of a country that does not yet exist."
This is what makes everything so hard, and feel so backwards sometimes.
We make great plans, and then nothing happens--or nothing seems to be happening.
But it's really an illusion that nothing seems to be happening.
A lot is taking place as a result of our work--even when we don't see it--but it's taking place in that country that doesn't yet exist. When that strange, new, democratic, liberated country suddenly springs into existence one day, it will have been shaped by all this work we're doing now.
Tilling bare ground doesn't look anything like a crop of vegetables. It just looks like dirt or mud. but you've got to prepare the soil if you want things to grow. Of course, with farming, you feel pretty confident that you're going to come up with something beautiful in the end if you go through the boring, not pretty labor in the beginning. Struggling against the prison-industrial complex feels much less certain, and most of us have no experiences of a world without bars, so it's harder to understand what's going on.
But what's going on is exactly what needs to be going on. We keep pushing, we keep singing and talking to each other, we keep moving, and every time we get knocked down, we get back up, till we all make it together to that country that doesn't yet exist.
Dr. Harding received this understanding from the ancestors and from wise people deeply connected to the past. We can be pretty confident that they knew what they were talking about.