A Calling: the Civil Right of Education

The Gathering for Justice
6 min readOct 25, 2019


The Gathering for Justice believes in the importance of intergenerational leadership, to harness the wisdom of our elders and the energy of our youth. In the span of five days, we convened five generations of activists at A Calling: the Civil Right of Education and lifted up the leadership of the young generation at the Gathering of the Youth.

A Calling: the Civil Right of Education was a collaborative effort between The Gathering for Justice, XQ Institute, the Emerson Collective and the United Negro College Fund. The two-day convening took place in New York City on October 16 and 17, 2019.

On Wednesday, October 16, Carmen was able to pay tribute to her mentor, the legendary Harry Belafonte, for his lifetime of service to the movement for civil and human rights. While Mr. Belafonte was not able to attend in person, he sent a moving message by video, which brought many in the audience to tears. (View the private video here using the password HB).

Carmen Perez shares her personal reflections of her mentor, Mr. Harry Belafonte

On Day Two, our program opened by recognizing the late Congressman Elijah Cummings, who passed away on October 17, 2019. Brea Baker gave a heartfelt tribute to Congressman Cummings for his life-long sacrifices on behalf of civil rights and the legacy of his 23-year tenure in office.

Activist and organizer Brea Baker honors the memory of Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, MD

Dannese Mapanda, Chief Operating Officer at The Gathering for Justice, then took the stage to showcase the work we’ve done over the past 14 years and share our agenda for collective liberation-building and training the next generations of Movement leaders.

Dannese Mapanda, Chief Operating Officer of The Gathering for Justice

Our program featured the “Voices of Liberation”, short, TEDx-style speeches on what liberation looks like from the perspective of people who are leading the movement today. Linda Sarsour inspired attendees with her vision, saying “I am committed to a world where we can be our full selves, where we can exercise our right to be embraced and loved as we are. The freedom we’re talking about is not just a physical state, it’s a freedom of the mind.”

Linda Sarsour, founder of MPower Change, co-founder of Until Freedom and founding board member of Women’s March

Jay Jordan, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice, spoke about our nation’s fixation on punishment as the only means of accountability. He recently led a victorious campaign in California to dramatically reduce the lifelong consequences of a prior conviction, which unnecessarily hinder social, familial and community participation. “I am one of the 70 million Americans — that’s 1 in 5 people — who experience over 40,000 lifelong consequences of a conviction like not being able to adopt, not being able to join the PTA, or coach Little League, or get a real estate license, or a barber’s license, or so much else.” Jay is part of the effort, led by Alliance for Safety and Justice, to take the campaign national and radically change the social and economic landscape of Black and Brown communities.

Jay Jordan, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice

DeJuana Thompson, founder of Woke Vote, took the stage to share how organizing our voting power is essential to policy change in our nation. Woke Vote successfully mobilized over 100,000 African American millennial and faith based voters in Alabama, helping to fill the U.S. Senate seat with a Democrat for the first time in 25 years.

DeJuana Thompson, founder of Woke Vote

Maya Angelou famously stated, “If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”

With that wisdom in mind, our panel “Where Have We Come From?” focused on understanding our current place in the multi-generational timeline of social justice. Robert Rooks, the founder and President of Alliance for Safety and Justice, facilitated a panel featuring Aída Hurtado, Professor and Chair of the UCSB Chicano Studies Department and a prolific feminist author; Gaye Theresa Johnson, UCLA professor and writer on race and racism, cultural history, and political economy; Khary Lazarre-White, Executive Director & Co-Founder of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol; Gus Newport, former Mayor of Berkeley, California, an educator and a lifelong racial justice activist for community and economic development; Roberto Múkaro Borrero, President of the United Confederation of Taíno People; and Nane Alejandrez, founder of Barrios Unidos and co-chair of the Urban Peace and Justice Summit. Each of these inspiring leaders and thinkers shared stories that showed the interconnectedness of the struggles for civil rights, racial justice, women’s rights, and indigenous sovereignty.

From left to right: Aída Hurtado, Gaye Theresa Johnson, Khary Lazarre-White, Robert Rooks, Gus Newport, Roberto Múkaro Borrero and Nane Alejandrez.

As always, our programming featured cultural components. Tamika Mallory, founder of Until Freedom, welcomed Mysonne Linen to the stage to perform his spoken word call-to-action for the movement, “I Don’t Have the Right to Do Nothing”.

Tamika Mallory (left) introduces Mysonne Linen (right)

Singer and songwriter Tamish performed the Black National Anthem, which inspired an impromptu sing-along from the crowd.


Ritual is an important part of our lives and Carmen wanted the transition out of the intergenerational convening and into the youth gathering to be marked with intentionality. Together with her mentor, Nane Alejandrez, and her mentees Jasmine Dellafosse, Brea Baker and Luis Hernandez, Carmen led a “rites of passage” for all in attendance.

Nane Alejandrez (left) lights a bundle of sage while Carmen Perez (right) speaks about the purpose of the rite of passage. Brea Baker (center) shares the stage

The programming presented by The Gathering for Justice was curated by a committee including our President and CEO, Carmen Perez, our COO, Dannese Mapanda, our Senior Regional Organizer Jasmine Dellafosse, our Youth Engagement Coordinator Luis Hernandez, and our partners Brea Baker of We Inspire Justice, Jay Jordan of Californians for Safety and Justice, Robert Rooks of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, indigenous activist Morning Star Gali of the Pit River Nation and Sakira Cook of the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Presenting A Calling: the Civil Right of Education followed by the Gathering of the Youth brought us back to our roots as an organization. The Gathering for Justice began in 2005 when Harry Belafonte witnessed news reports of a 5-year old black girl being handcuffed and arrested in her kindergarten classroom. Outraged and moved to action, Mr. B first gathered his peers in the Civil Rights Movement, who had become the elders in the movement, and then he gathered the youth, all to create an agenda for ending child incarceration.

Carmen Perez takes special guests on a tour through The Gathering for Justice office

Carmen Perez was at that first Gathering of the Youth. Fourteen years later, she’s now the one convening her peers and elders in the Civil Rights movement, and supporting her mentees as they organized the Gathering of the Youth for their generation. This moment of coming full circle was a blessing for all who were involved.

The Gathering for Justice staff. Front row from left: Carmen Perez with her son, and Dannese Mapanda. Back row from left: Jules Hoffenberg, Cassady Fendlay, Jasmine Dellafosse, Kris Arroyo, Luis Hernandez and Eliana Carballo



The Gathering for Justice

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