Featured speakers included Jacqueline A. Berrian, Chair, U.S. Equal Employment opportunity Commission, Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School Jesse Clemenko Professor of Law, Carmen M. Ortiz, U.S. Attorney District of Massachusetts, Dick Gregory Author, Civil Rights Activist and Comedian, Ridney G. Hood, M.D. Managing Partner, Care View Medical Group and Lawrence Watson Historian and Artist, Berklee School of Music and Save Our Should production.
Jamie Williamson, Chair, MCAD introduced the speakers, John Fisher (HAP Housing), Meris Bergquist (MFHC) and the Springfield Mayor, Dominic Sarno and mentioned the advances in policy regarding a “Unifying Theme” and the need for “No new ideas but more solutions as Civil Rights went into various silos.”
The Conference included (25) workshops on an array of critical topics: Fair Housing, Civil Rights, Prison to Pipeline, Understanding Disability Discrimination, Lenders and Cultural Competence and many more.
We learned that Normal Rockwell had received death threats for his painting of Ruby Bridges titled, The Problem We Live With from Charles Walker, former Chairman MCAD and proceeded to examine some of the defining moments in the development of the Civil Rights Movement, re-discovering that the doors did not “magically swing open” to remember that Blacks could not eat anywhere or work anywhere and we must continually “expect and demand the arc of mindfulness from one another” as we work toward an even greater movement toward racial equality.
Racism is based upon dehumanization and our efforts to develop a strategic enforcement plan regarding social and racial justice is an absolute necessity as a speaker has stated we,
“Bend the Arc Toward Justice.”
Charles Ogltree spoke of Black Cultural Expression/Trans African, 1913 when the Civil Rights struggle was still in its infancy. Dick Gregory, who had run for President in 1968, shared his experiences within the movement and asked that we examine people in the entertainment industry and in sports, to see if their interest in racial justice matches our interest in them! Each panelist agreed that voter registration should be accompanied by voter education.
U.S. District Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz had created a Civil Rights Enforcement Team in criminal civil cases adding that MS gives harsher discipline/consequences to black students than white and there are disproportionate sentences, ie: 20 % larger Black male population serving longer time sin prison than white people who committed the same crime” adding that it is “disgraceful “asking us to, “Take stock of your challenges and move forward.”
For two days the attendees were deeply moved by the presenters and the workshops combined. The information, testimonials and conversations about the work that is taking place right in these times was reassuring. The renewed commitment to the work we were returning to in our communities was stirring. One could not help but believe that while the struggle continues we are indeed able to develop a unifying theme to do what must be done to reduce the unacceptable racial disparities, knowing that poverty has a racial caste to it.
I left the conference with a fresh sense of camaraderie, a reminder of my respect for all activists, an appreciation for the sense of community that remained a part of the conference from beginning to end, and, a clearer vision of the work I was returning to.
~ Kaolin, author Talking About Race: A Workbook About White People Fostering Racial Equality in Their Lives and Member of NOW National Task Force to Combat Racism and co-author with Mr. Henry White of Protocol: Welcome To Paradise, Watch Your Step to be launched in the Fall ’14.