25 Jul “The Social Justice Activist”
“The Social Justice Activist”
–Who is Lee Nave?
That’s a hard question; it’s been fluctuating for years. When I graduated from high school, I attended a naval military school. I thought I wanted to be a JAG lawyer. I injured myself when I was 15; my mom said I didn’t do outdoorsy type stuff enough, so she told me to ride a four wheeler one day, and I ended up breaking my leg to the extent of getting declined when I registered for the military.
I always thought it was cool to help people internationally and that’s why I wanted to be in the military, but that dream was lost. Going back further than that, when I was a kid, my dad would buy Section 8 properties and allow me to manage the maintenance side. We had an incident once where we had to evict a lady and her son. She had drug abuse issues and at the time, I was only 11. I wanted her to stay, so I questioned the reasoning, and my dad said it was because she wasn’t paying the rent.
I say all of this to say, I’ve always wanted to help people. Around 16, I began to work in education by way of after school programs. I went from volunteering to working part-time, helping students create advertisement packages for various companies. Working with youth in the inner city was a major connection for me.
I went to University of Iowa after high school to be a teacher. I saw quickly that I didn’t want to do that. Originally, I was going to go the English route, but I ended up getting a degree in history and communication. I had a great advisor that helped sculpt my career. He was my debate coach and my communications advisor. He also introduced me to the thought of studying policy by going into public administration.
I took an internship on the East Coast, which really showed me that I wanted to be on the East Coast permanently and also that I wanted to find a grad program in policy. I was accepted into NYU, but ended up going to Seton Hall. I was initially attracted to NYU because of Dr. Irshad Manji and her work and the city. Around 2012, between grad and undergrad, I was in New Jersey, and I got on Twitter to see a hash tag #stuVoice. They were all talking about student rights, engagement, activism, and how students don’t get invited to the table regarding discussions on students.
It went from a social media group to a website called www.stuvoice.org. All this occurred by the summer of 2012. In the fall, we decided to have a conference to discuss how students can have rights. We had nearly 200 people come to New York for the conference and reached 8 million online. We had 20 countries also live streaming the event. Dell, Intel, and Microsoft also streamed the event at their headquarters.
The event was a success. Arne Duncan was scheduled to attend, but instead did a video message saying how he felt this was important and how he wanted to have us come to the table with President Obama.
After the event, the leaders were able to convene, delegate work, and eventually grow into a full non-profit. I ended up becoming the COO of the organization. Most of my role was filing the initial paperwork, managing the organization, and making sure we had the right volunteers.
In 2014, we did another conference, and with the success of this conference, we were able to secure funding from Cengage, a Boston based company. They contracted us to go around and teach teachers about the Student Bill of Rights. We were also able to host panels with the company.
The Student Bill of Rights was created based on goals the organization wanted to accomplish by 2020. Currently, we have someone traveling the country to talk to high schools and universities about the Bill of Rights. From there, the students are able to vote on the bill. We are looking to take the data we collect to the Department of Education.
Most of the appearances come from invites. For example, we got connected to Baltimore City Schools from a presentation at SXSW.
After grad school in Boston, I found a job with a program called Citizens for Juvenile Justice. For the past year, I’ve been working on advocacy programs and I’m currently creating a divergent network through a fellowship. I have to find a way to create a community-organizing network between policy makers, grassroots programs, and other community stakeholders to help find alternatives for prison – not only from a legislative end, but from a community end as well. We want to help individuals getting released from prison find jobs on the back end. Altogether, we want to curb the total number of individuals going to prison by educating the community on the ills of the criminal justice system.
It’s definitely different from the education work that I am used to, but it’s important for me because I saw early on and am still seeing the effects of the system on my friends and family members.
–What do you wish to do in the future with your degrees?
More nationally based work and progressively moving to change both the criminal justice system and the education system.
–Any advice for young Black males or Black America?
Stay hungry as hell! Whatever opportunities you see, jump on them early, even if you are 12 years old. Raise your voice about what you don’t like and try to understand local politics as much as possible and support it.
–How can readers keep up with you?
@LeenaveJr on Twitter.
This article was written by Justin Sims, (IAMMRMENTOR), In hopes of not only inspiring entrepreneurs, but young black males to be the best and the truest version of themselves.
If you like this article and find yourself interested in more positive stories about black millennial age males, please visit WWW.IAMMRMENTOR.CO and follow him on his social media pages IAMMRMENTOR on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.