On November 17-19, three Highlander staff members participated in the 1st National Convention of The Gathering for Justice, founded two years ago by Harry Belafonte. Over 800 youth and adults travelled to Oakland, CA, for the Gathering, which focused on organizing and training young people to challenge the criminalization of youth and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Highlander helped organize a delegation of 25 southern youth and adult allies from groups across the region, including Power U (Miami), PODER (Austin), Actvists with a Purpose (Grenada, MS), Action Communications and Education Reform (Duck Hill, MS), Families and Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (New Orleans), and a delegation from Knoxville, TN. We also coordinated our efforts with other southern and Appalachian organizations who attended the Gathering, including Appalshop (KY) and the Algebra Project (New Orleans).

The presence of so many southern and Appalachian groups at the Gathering was partly the result of Highlander’s eight-year-old Seeds of Fire youth leadership program and the work we have done over the past several years on intergenerational organizing and education and prison-pipeline issues. These efforts include the “Fight the Lockdown” gathering in 2003, the “Pupils, Prison, and Priorities” strategic research workshop in 2005, the Intergenerational Think Tank in 2006, and youth and intergenerational programs we helped organize this year at the U.S. Social Forum and at Highlander’s 75th anniversary celebration.

Many of the youth and adults in the Highlander delegation had been to the 2007 Seeds of Fire camp, the Social Forum, and the 75th Anniversary Celebration, so the Gathering was the fourth time they had worked together this year. Together, these sessions have given them valuable tools for local organizing and helped build a sense of regional solidarity that will strengthen their future work in this area.