Home News Center NJJN's Covid-19 Youth Justice Response Fund Grantee Spotlight: The Gathering for Justice

NJJN's Covid-19 Youth Justice Response Fund Grantee Spotlight: The Gathering for Justice

November 30, 2020
Courtney M. McSwain

In May 2020, NJJN announced a new COVID-19 Youth Justice Response Fund to support advocacy toward the decarceration of youth correctional facilities in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. Out of 40 applications, five organizations received 1-year grants to bolster their efforts to advocate for alternatives to institutional care and detention. We are pleased to report on the work of our grantees, this month highlighting The Gathering for Justice. 

The Gathering for Justice’s mission is to build a movement to end child incarceration while working to eliminate the racial inequities that permeate policing and the justice system. They infuse art, culture and creative practices to build and sustain an intersectional justice movement by developing leadership rooted in nonviolence and historical wisdom. Their most transformative initiatives happen at the intersections of cultural organizing, convening people across generations and differences, organizing smart rapid response initiatives to breaking events, and effectively organizing advocacy efforts for policy change. The Gathering for Justice and their Justice League NYC & CA state task forces utilize Kingian nonviolence, a historical tactic that is not passive but a strength-based approach to achieving justice, as a social application for systemic change and civic engagement. Justice League NYC and Justice League CA organize rapid response, mass mobilizations and direct actions that bring together juvenile and criminal justice experts, advocates, artists and people directly impacted by incarceration and state violence to build an agenda for sustained Black and Brown liberation.

In New York City, The Gathering for Justice (The Gathering) supports young leaders as they organize to reduce youth incarceration and speed up the release of young people who are in detention facilities or prisons. The current organizing work is part of a larger effort to launch The Children’s Agenda - a platform for long-term youth-led advocacy on the intersecting issues that impact the lives of Black and Brown young people. A central aspect of this work includes developing youth leaders who drive the work for policy and systems change. 

NJJN’s Covid-19 Youth Justice Response Fund supported the leadership development and organizing work of The Gathering’s youth leaders. Marches, public education campaigns, youth organized coalitions, town halls and influencer engagement all amplified the importance of youth decarceration, particularly in light of Covid-19, and created opportunities for the long-term advocacy around the reduction of youth admissions to detention facilities, jails and prisons, as well as strengthening reentry processes and services. 

Just a few of the notable youth-led events and campaigns supported by the NJJN Covid-19 Youth Justice Response Fund to promote advocacy for youth decarceration include:  

  • A youth-led march to End the War on Children in New York City, which called for police-free schools, investment in the Department of Education and defunding the New York Police Department in order to reduce youth admissions to detention centers, jails and prisons. 
  • A coalition of youth-led and youth serving organizations that pushed forth demands on local and state-wide reductions in admissions of youth to detentions and prisons, accelerated release and strengthened reentry services and processes. 
  • The launch of an action toolkit that brought in thousands of supporters to phone bank and write letters and emails to legislators to demand policy and systems changes. 
  • A panel hosted by The Gathering in Albany, NY sponsored by NY State Senator Brian Benjamin on “Police in Our Communities.” The solutions-focused conversation featured NYCLU’s Donna Lieberman, NYPD12 whistleblower Edwin Raymond, scholar-activist Rosa Clemente and The Gathering’s Director of Youth Campaigns, Luis Hernandez. The conversation focused on preventing rollbacks of bail reform, decreasing youth incarceration and additional youth justice issues; The Gathering has remained in communication with our partners advocating for these issues.
  • The Instagram-based digital campaign with the college-based organization ‘you can too’ on “The Erasure of Black Childhood,” which focused on the dehumanizing effects of adultification that leads to the over-criminalization of Black youth. The campaign engaged over 87,000 people, with over 20,000 likes and 27,000 shares on social media. 
  • The #NoRollbacks digital campaign with FWD.US to push back on fear mongering and advocate for bail reforms to stay intact and continuing steps toward youth decarceration. 
  • Influencer support from actor and activist Kendrick Sampson and hip-hop artist and activist Mysonne Linen to amplify the campaign to reduce youth admissions to detention centers, jails and prisons, accelerate release and strengthen reentry processes and services.

These are just a few of the campaigns youth organizers have led to push for youth decarceration. Among its many plans moving forward, The Gathering plans to deepen the engagement of youth leaders, including new activists by building the Youth Justice Council and preparing youth organizers for advocacy during the upcoming legislative session. 

To learn more about The Gathering for Justice, visit their website and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

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