Journey for Justice Convenes to Grow the Movement

From May 20-22, more than one hundred parent and community organizers from across the country gathered in Baltimore for the Journey for Justice (J4J) National Convening.

The biennial conference was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, so this is the first time in several years that J4J members and allies could gather in the same place to connect, learn, and strategize. Attendees took advantage of every moment, filling the conference halls with an almost palpable energy and excitement for the work of the weekend and the work ahead. It was clear that while COVID-19 had changed the terrain, the movement-building carried on.

A Multi-issue, Intersectional Approach

The convening was very much a working conference: participants were eager to brainstorm and build a common vision for the alliance, drawing in part on the lessons learned from a series of J4J listening sessions held in multiple cities in which community members identified their most important collective needs.

Front and center for the weekend was the Equity or Else campaign, which launched in 2021 as an ambitious agenda spanning multiple fronts, from education and housing to health care and food insecurity. Schott’s Senior Vice President of Programs and Advocacy Diallo Brooks, who attended the convening, remarked on how participants were able to “connect the dots” and knit together usually disparate issues. “In the U.S. we resource healthcare on its own, housing on its own, and public education on its own, without any integration between them,” he said. “Journey for Justice is on the cutting edge of breaking down those silos.”

Breakout sessions were held on each issue area for a deep dive into specifics, with participants in the education session focusing on ending funding inequity and the school-to-prison pipeline while building sustainable community schools and culturally responsive curricula.

A Blueprint for Equity and a Roadmap to Get There

More than critiquing the system as it stands, at the heart of Equity or Else is its Quality Life Platform, a bold, positive vision of systems as they could be. This means holding policymakers accountable for their actions while also building the relationships needed to advance meaningful policy change. A sign of that dynamic could be found in the keynote by U.S. Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten, appointed by a president who, as a candidate, was asked tough questions by some of the same J4J members in the room.

Next Steps

In addition to more listening sessions this summer, the primary focus ahead is the September mobilization in Washington, DC.

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