YESS Legal Advocacy was founded on principles of supporting Black, Latiné, Indigenous, and other youth of color and was created from a recognition that young people need comprehensive representation to address their diverse and unique legal issues. Founders Courtney Kazembe with over 35 years of experience in international law and Annika Kazembe as an advocate for her son with a mental illness and other youths of color, saw a need to provide financial and legal support to navigate a system that has been adversarial. They recognized that our young people’s legal problems went far beyond traditional legal solutions and so YESS Legal Advocacy was born. Thanks to their tenacity and passion for freedom, just opportunity and access, YESS Legal Advocacy is now a global organization providing free legal services to more than one thousand youth annually.
In many areas, an arrest can lead to eviction, even if it never results in a conviction or if the charges are dropped. Our services provides representation for our youth to navigate the policies that would create barriers to equal housing opportunities.
In many places, a lawyer is guaranteed in criminal court. Young people often struggle to keep court dates and follow judges’ orders. This is often due to fear and confusion. This is especially true when a young person has been given a criminal summons, has missed a court date or other court mandated stipulations. We use both legal and youth advocacy principles to get the best possible outcomes for our young people.
In many areas, it is against the law for employers to ask about a criminal history prior to a job offer. We are advocates for equal employment opportunities for youth who face discrimination or refusal solely based on a criminal history.
A suspension from school places a youth at heightened risk of permanently dropping out. We support our young people to ensure their rights are protected—and to prevent them from being funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. We help youths finish high schools, pursue college education by providing mentorship and guidance on application questions relating to criminal histories.
Partnerships are the heart YESS legal advocacy. Our attorneys and advocates host workshops and provide legal representation to young people. In doing so, we dismantle legal barriers to re-entry, so that when young people complete our programs, they are positioned for success.