The first ever Movement for Black Lives Convening will bring together "freedom fighters" from across the country in Cleveland this weekend "to build a national community dedicated to permanently changing the country," according to a press release.

This historic event comes at a pivotal time for the growing social justice movement in the United States. “Black people are facing unabated police violence, increasing criminalization, a failed economic system, a broken education system and the loss of our communities to gentrification and development,” according to the event website.

“For us, the most exciting part about the Movement for Black Lives Convening is that it will be a gathering of Black folks from across the country and across the world who are really focused on thinking together and building together.” said Charlene Carruthers, the national director of Black Youth Project 100.

Groups such as Black Lives Matter, BYP100, Ferguson Action, and Concerned Citizens for Justice are joining forces to make the inaugural Convening possible. 

“The Convening was an organic outgrowth of conversations that people around the country were having as we were hitting the streets, starting in the initial wave of protest and activism that Black people have lead in response to the killing of Mike Brown, the killing of Eric Garner, the killings of Tanisha Anderson and other black women and men,” said Maurice Mitchell, an organizer for the Movement for Black Lives.   

Convening workshops will focus on strategic planning, political education and advocacy, cultural arts, sustainable farming, and healing spaces. The weekend will provide a space to create a collective mission that matches the intensity, scale, urgency, and promise of months of action.

“In terms of the demands, we have some pretty simple and clear expectations around how our state should deal with us,” said Mitchell. “The initial site has just been about us, as black people, being treated as full citizens and full human beings, and everything that goes along with that and everything that’s required of that. It’s not just about state violence in the form of police violence. It’s about all the different ways that we interact with our society, as black people, that deny us our full value and our full human dignity.”

Though police violence has been at the center of the uprising taking place across the country, the Movement for Black Lives does not want to focus entirely on police brutality against Black people.

“Violence is not just physical violence. Violence is not just police violence,” said Mitchell. “Violence is anything that denies our full capacity for human dignity and our full capacity for happiness in or lived experience. We want to expand the conversation past police violence towards a goal where Black people live in our full human dignity and our full humanity, our full genius.”

Black Youth Project 100 is also determined to change the relationship between police departments and black communities by addressing the overwhelming power imbalance that under-served communities of color are facing across the country.

“For us, it is extremely important for police officers and police departments to have much less power than they do, much smaller budgets than they do, and for those funds to be allocated in to services we need like quality public education, good jobs, infrastructure, and healthcare.” said Carruthers.

“I’m less concerned about mending relationships with the police departments because we are already entering the conversation with the uneven power dynamic. I’m much more interested in changing what power looks like, what the relationships look like and how we actually reach toward the services and infrastructure we need in our community.”