Former Youth Council Leader Wins 2021 Reebok Human Rights Award

Posted September 12, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Hernan Carvente-Martinez smiles at the camera.

Hernán Carvente-Martinez

Hernán Car­vente-Mar­tinez, a social entre­pre­neur and advo­cate for youth jus­tice trans­for­ma­tion who was a found­ing mem­ber of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s youth advi­so­ry coun­cil on juve­nile jus­tice, has received a 2021 Reebok Human Rights Award.

Car­vente-Mar­tinez works as nation­al youth part­ner­ship strate­gist at Youth First Ini­tia­tive, where he cre­at­ed the Youth First Youth Lead­ers Net­work to sup­port youth lead­ers in the fight to end youth incar­cer­a­tion. He is the founder and CEO of Heal­ing Nin­jas, Inc. a tech­nol­o­gy and media com­pa­ny cre­at­ing tools and resources for peo­ple who are on heal­ing jour­neys ― espe­cial­ly those who have expe­ri­enced trau­ma from involve­ment with the jus­tice sys­tem, as he did.

Reebok, in part­ner­ship with Alaba­ma State Uni­ver­si­ty and the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, rec­og­nized Carvente-Martinez’s work and the time and ener­gy he ded­i­cates to uphold­ing the rights of Black and Brown youth with lived expe­ri­ence in the jus­tice sys­tem who have been crim­i­nal­ized, exploit­ed and incar­cer­at­ed” and sup­port­ing the move­ment to close youth pris­ons and rein­vest in com­mu­ni­ty-based alter­na­tives to youth incar­cer­a­tion. The Reebok Foun­da­tion award­ed him $100,000 and fea­tured him in a two-minute video.

I am so excit­ed to con­tin­ue this work to con­front the human rights abus­es found in lock­ing up chil­dren and to build a real­i­ty where sup­port­ing and empow­er­ing young peo­ple is the pri­or­i­ty,” Car­vente-Mar­tinez said in an inter­view with Youth First.

Car­vente-Mar­tinez was a found­ing mem­ber of the youth coun­cil formed to advise the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group in 2015. Coun­cil mem­bers lever­age their own expe­ri­ences — such as time in locked facil­i­ties — to devel­op rec­om­men­da­tions that strength­en the Foundation’s work. As emerg­ing lead­ers, the coun­cil mem­bers receive guid­ance and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment to sup­port their career goals as well. Short­ly after join­ing the group, Car­vente-Mar­tinez said that what mat­ters to him and his peers is that the adults hear and respect the youth mem­bers’ per­spec­tives: I want youth to be looked at as experts and lead­ers in their own right, rather than being looked at as tokens and missed opportunities.”

Hernán has tran­si­tioned from a youth leader to an adult who has cre­ative­ly carved out his own path to close youth pris­ons and pro­mote heal­ing,” says Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. Coura­geous­ly, he urges peo­ple to find the sup­port they need to take care of them­selves so they have the ener­gy to advo­cate for the well-being of others.” 

More on the Youth Advi­so­ry Council

To Be Effec­tive Advo­cates, Young Peo­ple Need Support

Twelve Named to Casey’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Youth Advi­so­ry Council

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