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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Summit for Civil Rights to Tackle Racial Justice, Economic Equality at Rutgers University

Congressional leadership, major labor leaders, and some of the United States’ top legal and social science thinkers will come together at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey on May 2 and 3 to help rebuild a national movement to defeat segregation, promote racial justice, and provide economic equality. Leaders and advocates for civil rights, labor rights, and economic fairness are invited to join. 

The 2nd annual Summit for Civil Rights comes at a difficult political moment for the civil rights community, when its values are being forgotten in institutions such as the federal Department of Justice and the U.S. Supreme Court. This national Summit is intended to reverse this narrative of defeat and decline, and explore the ways in which this dark political moment is in fact a time of immense social opportunity for racial and social justice, rooted in unexpected places. Growing diversity, particularly in the suburbs that elect a majority of the nation’s political leadership, has made the politics civil rights viable once again. In these places, an unrecognized and untapped coalition is forming, one that could reshape America.

The time and place of the Summit were chosen to take advantage of two major developments in civil rights: the advancement of two major statewide school desegregation lawsuits -- one in New Jersey and the other in Minnesota. At a time when the federal government has often been unfavorable to concerns about segregation, these pioneering lawsuits seek to use state constitutions to require state legislatures to pursue the long-delayed objective of school integration. In both states, this legislative and legal activity has given rise to opportunities for local and community organizing. 

The Summit seeks to leverage these developments to expand its diverse, multiracial coalition. That coalition will work to interweave school integration remedies into efforts to create housing justice and economic opportunity.

The first Summit for Civil Rights, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in November 2017, was a significant success. It brought together civil rights leaders including then-Rep. Keith Ellison, Rep. James E. Clyburn, and former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale to formulate the principles of a state-by-state strategy for racial and economic opportunity. That strategy included legal, legislative, and community organizing components, all of which are reflected in the Minnesota and New Jersey proceedings.

In New Jersey, Summit leaders and other experts will grapple with the political, economic and policy implications of these school desegregation lawsuits. They will consider the role diverse school districts might play in advancing broader civil rights objectives. Local practitioners, local and national activists, and others are welcome to attend. Prominent elected officials and civil rights leaders currently slated to attend include:

  • Rep. James E. Clyburn
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman
  • Rep. Frank Pallone
  • Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
  • New Jersey Sen. Nia H. Gill
  • Atlantic City Freeholder Ashley Bennett
  • Rev. Cornell Brooks
  • NAACP President Derrick Johnson
  • NEA Vice President Becky Pringle
  • Prof. Diane Ravitch
In addition, speakers will include over two dozen other top labor, faith, political, and intellectual leaders. For more information about speakers, please visit the Summit for Civil Rights website. Registration is available here
WHERE: Labor Center at Rutgers University, 50 Labor Center Way, New Brunswick, N.J.
WHEN: Starts Thursday, May 2 at 1:00 p.m. (welcome reception and recognition ceremony for Rep. James E. Clyburn starts at 6:00 p.m.); Summit concludes Friday, May 3 at 4:00 p.m.
The Summit for Civil Rights is presented by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, the Labor Education Action Research Network at Rutgers, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and Building One America, with support from the Ford Foundation and the UAW. For more details about the event, please visit the Summit website, https://summitforcivilrights.orghttps://summitforcivilrights.org/.

  • Myron Orfield, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity Director, orfield@umn.edu, 612-625-7976
  • Will Stancil, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity Fellow, stanc047@umn.edu, 612-624-8329


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