There is an epidemic raging across the United States, a plague that is ravishing communities of color one by one. No, it is not Ebola or the bird flu. It is a problem that is at once both mundane and completely astounding: our criminal justice system is filled with children, who are being incarcerated at an alarming rate.

Hundreds of thousands of children across the United States are incarcerated every year. In fact, in any given year approximately half a million young people are brought to juvenile detention centers, often in facilities that are privatized and for-profit. Many thousands are also tried and held as adults in prisons. And this circumstance affects communities of color at disproportionately high rates.

The school-to-prison pipeline is ever expanding with children from our communities who are being used to fuel the nation’s insatiable prison industrial complex, making the movement to end childhood incarceration more pressing than ever.

The Gathering For Justice is hosting a three-day conference tackling these issues called, “Growing Up Locked Down.” The conference will be held from September 24-26, 2014 in New York City. In 2005, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte founded the social justice organization, whose aims are to build a national movement to end child incarceration and correct and replace the institutional mechanisms that support mass incarceration through the use of nonviolent direct action. Since then, The Gathering for Justice has had success with programs and events concerning gang intervention, violence prevention, cultural reconciliation, restorative justice, nonviolence training, leadership training, and grassroots mobilization.

Growing Up Locked Down” (GULD) brings together juvenile justice experts, advocates, activists, and community members to converge in a 3-day multicultural, multimedia, solutions-based juvenile justice conference held at The New School in New York City. Speakers include Harry Belafonte, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, Aja Monet, Cornel West, Jasiri X, and much more.

The conference’s goal is to “create and present (2) ‘solutions reports’ – one developed with the NYC community in the lead up to GULD, the second developed from GULD’s content – to be delivered to the de Blasio and Cuomo administrations.  GULD will then travel to a new city or region each year.”