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Civil Rights conference to take place in person this summer

The tenth annual National Civil Rights Conference will be held at Miami University this summer.

The conference was originally scheduled for June 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference is now set to take place on June 21 and 22, 2021. This year’s theme is “Rise, Advocate, Educate and Cooperate: The Challenge of Change.”

There will be a pre-conference on June 20 at the Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi. At the pre-conference, a memorial will be held for James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were killed during the Freedom Summer events of 1964.

Anthony James, Miami’s vice president of institutional diversity and inclusion, said the conference is scheduled as planned, despite the pandemic still being an obstacle for in-person events to occur.

“Some people will be onsite, but we will also have some folks participating remotely,” James wrote in an email to The Miami Student.

Miami was chosen as the location for this year’s conference partially because of the university’s role as a co-sponsor. Keith Parker, the chairman of the planning committee and co-founder and CEO of the conference, said another reason Miami was chosen is because of its past with and dedication to civil rights.

“I have been extremely impressed with President Crawford’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Parker said. “And of course, Miami University has a long history of engagement in social justice issues brought back to the days of the Western College for Women.”

Jacqueline Johnson, Miami’s university archivist and principal librarian, has been on the planning committee for the National Civil Rights Conference for eight out of the ten conferences. 

“Our goals are really to get as many people to attend as possible, especially from the Miami University community,” Johnson said.

In addition to having local attendees, there will also be participation from middle and high school students, some from out-of-state. 

“We’re going to have some of the participants in what we call a mobile classroom experience,” Parker said. “They will be traveling from Louisiana up, which is about a 15 hour trip, but they’re going to stop along the way and visit several civil rights sites.”

Some of the events planned are theater and art exhibits, a youth workshop, panel sessions and guest speakers.

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“We’re going to have a traveling exhibit from the Miami University Art Museum titled ‘Telling People’s Story’ about African American children’s books,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have Jerry Mitchell, who is a really famous reporter, who’s coming to talk about doing investigative reporting and civil rights and social justice.”

Parker thinks the National Civil Rights Conference is important to highlight the significance of voting.

“Today, more so than ever, we need to inform people, educate people and continue to make people aware of the importance of the vote,” Parker said.

James wrote that the conference is important because the Declaration of Independence vows for everyone to have the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“A brief reading of history will show how difficult it has been to instantiate that promise,” James wrote. “This conference helps remind us of that past and motivate us to do better in the future.”