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Anjanette Young: Turning Pain into Power

Anjanette Young

 In celebration of Social Work Awareness Month, Governors State University’s Social Work Department recently honored a colleague whose story has captured national headlines.

Social Worker Anjanette Young was at the center of a botched Chicago police raid in her home on Feb. 19, 2019 , and presented her story and video during an emotionally charged symposium called Respond to Violence: Transformative Justice: Turning Pain into Power.

Short video clips from police body cameras show a naked Young protesting as officers enter and rip apart her home with a no-knock warrant. Though many have seen the shorter video, at GSU Young shared a longer Chicago Tribune compilation of police body camera footage from the raid that she uses as a tool when presenting and teaching.

Dr. Phyllis West, Director of the Social Justice Initiative at Governors State University issued a trigger warning of sorts before the clip played.

“Breathe, inhale and exhale. when you hear someone else’s trauma that is getting into your body …  step out of the room if you need to,’’ West said, encouraging guests to seek help with therapists in the room, if needed.

Young explained why she uses the six-and-a-half minute clip, the painful soundtrack of a wailing cry of injustice.

“In this video you get to see all the injustices; all of the violations; all of the wrong they did,’’ Young said. “We understand that police work is hard and sometimes they don’t always get it right. It’s one thing to get it wrong and end up at my door, it’s another thing to treat me the way they treated me once they entered my home.”

Young, the granddaughter of a Civil Rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, is a licensed clinical social worker with a master’s degree in clinical social work. Before the raid on her home, her focus had been direct-practice social work, engaging with children and families. Now, she’s promoting justice, advocacy, and being a voice to the voiceless.

One of the ways she’s advocating is through the Anjanette Young Ordinance, which would, among other things, ban no-knock warrants. This in addition to the seven-figure settlement with the City of Chicago.

Event moderator Latesha Newson, a Lecturer in the GSU Department of Social Work, has worked closely with Young to pass the ordinance, even lobbying in Washington, D.C.

At the end of the symposium, Newson presented Young and three others with an award for their advocacy. She singled Young out for her decision to turn trauma to triumph.

“We chose Anjanette for her bravery. She’s been fighting for almost two years, and it was very important to recognize her as a social worker who is doing the work of fighting injustice.”

Watch Respond to Violence: Transforming Pain into Power here.