It was a combination of police violence in my brown and black neighborhood, of burying my sister on my 17th birthday and of the community I had that helped me escape becoming a statistic that inspired the work I do today.
I’m the executive director of The Gathering for Justice, an organization founded by civil rights leader and artist Harry Belafonte in 2005, which aims to end child incarceration. It was through The Gathering that I founded what I consider to be my baby, Justice League NYC.
I wanted to bring together a group of young people who are artists, activists, direct service providers, criminal justice and juvenile justice experts to create a task force that would work to change the criminal justice system in New York and across the U.S., and that’s what we are doing with Justice League NYC.
Justice League NYC, following The Gathering’s Kingian nonviolence direct action and civic engagement approach, organizes various protests. When the grand jury didn't indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who took the life of unarmed black Staten Island father Eric Garner, we took to the streets every day. We marched to the Grand Central Terminal to shut down the holiday lighting, believing that none of us should have a Christmas if Garner’s family can’t enjoy one. We went to Barclays Center and dropped a banner that said, “I can’t breathe,” Garner’s final words, as we chanted it aloud, causing a disruption that ultimately led to our removal from the stadium. We protested in Foley Square, shutting down the West Side Highway and making national news when I and other demonstrators were arrested. We staged a die-in protest for 30 minutes at the Fifth Avenue Apple store. When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sat courtside at the Brooklyn Nets game, we led a Royal Shutdown, with basketball players like LeBron James and others showing their support for the movement by donning "I can't breathe" t-shirts that we made on my living room floor the night prior. More recently, in March, we journeyed, on foot, from New York to Washington, D.C., in a March 2 Justice rally that ended with a demonstration and concert at The National Mall, where we offered a "Justice Package" of criminal justice reform legislation that would end racial profiling, demilitarize our police forces and invest in our communities.
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