From Facing Charges As an Organizer to Winning Elected Office


The 2022 midterm elections are right around the corner. In our new series Teen Vogue’s Top 10, we’re asking candidates 10 questions about the issues we know our readers care about the most, including student debt and climate change — plus a few bonus questions for fun.

Here, Justin Jones tells us about becoming the youngest lawmaker in the Tennessee State Capitol and getting into good trouble.

1. What is your stance on reducing funding for police departments and the term “defund the police”?

In the summer of 2020, I faced 14 charges for organizing protests for racial justice and police accountability during a 62-day sit-in outside the state capitol. I experienced firsthand how calls for ending police violence are met with more police violence, mass arrests, and state surveillance. This system needs to be radically changed.

More policing does not lead to community safety. We need to create and fund emergency services that are not driven by police response, and we need to recognize the roots of policing in this nation. That is what I heard in the grassroots call to “defund the police” — a parallel mandate to allocate more funding to social workers, public education, ending poverty, and true policies of community safety.

2. How are you specifically engaging young people in your campaign?

As one of the few young people running for the Tennessee legislature, my campaign is about bringing people power to the people’s house. I hope my win will open the door for other young people to run as well. I am excited by the young, bold energy that powered our campaign and represents a new generation of politics in our community. I’m proud that my first organizational endorsement came from Sunrise Movement and young climate activists. We had high school students who could not vote yet [who were] volunteering and excited about our grassroots campaign, as well as many first-time young voters who came to the polls to show their support. As I said, I will be the only lawmaker in the Tennessee legislature in their 20s, and I hope to give voice to the vision, the urgency, and the boldness of our generation. 

3. Name one public figure you admire and why.

Diane Nash is a Nashville legend and national civil rights leader. She was one of the key organizers and leaders of the Nashville sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and the voting rights movement. I am grateful for her mentorship throughout the past few years, and was honored to be with her in July as she accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Biden at the White House. As a leader, she always makes sure to lift up the movement as a whole and to encourage the rising generation to take up the struggle.

4. If you could snap your fingers and change two things about politics in the United States, what would they be?

Picking just two is hard.

First, I would close the tax loopholes that protect the wealth of oligarchs like Jeff Bezos, who has built and hoarded an empire on the backs of poverty wages and worker exploitation. Most of his corporate success has been subsidized by public money and taxpayers, which is obscene. As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately stated, “This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.” Taxes on Bezos’s wealth alone could fund solutions to the problems we face in housing, public education, and health care (all of which would be a better use of money than spaceships for billionaires to play astronaut).





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