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Two Day Conference to Focus on Progress in Achieving Social and Racial Justice

Submitted on January 28, 2019

Lift Every Voice: Racism and Reconciliation is the theme for an important and timely Georgetown College conference on progress in achieving social and racial justice. It is being held Feb. 28 and March 1. Issues of systemic racism, racial bias in the prison system, and efforts to bring these injustices to light and correction will be discussed during various presentations to students and at public forums to which all members of the community are invited.

The conference is intended to be one of engagement, empowering participants to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It takes its lead from The Equal Justice Initiative created by Bryan Stevenson in Montgomery, Al., a nonprofit organization that “challenges poverty and racial injustice, advocates for equal treatment in the criminal justice system, and creates hope for marginalized communities,” according to its web site. A widely acclaimed public interest lawyer, Stevenson is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Just Mercy.

Dr. Roger Ward, Professor, and Chair, Department of Philosophy, is coordinating the conference. In keeping with the College’s year-long theme dealing with racism and reconciliation, he and Dr. John Henkel, Associate Professor of Classics and General Studies, led a group of students to Montgomery this past fall to visit the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

“I watched the students as they looked at exhibits,” commented Ward. “I could sense they were grasping the depth of racism and the violence it engenders. They were moved; I was moved. It was perhaps the most important thing I have done as a professor at Georgetown.”

One of several students making the trip was Nena Claycomb, a freshman from Louisville.

“One word to describe this trip is transparency,” she stated. “I was able to sit down with my peers and faculty and talk about hard topics that no one really discusses. It allowed me to tell my experiences as an African American woman and tell my story without any fear or anxiety. It became clear that it is important to know our history, even today. It really touched me to see the support and emotions that circulated through our small circle as we sat on the wooden steps in front of the waterfall.

“The memorial was beautiful. The water was rushing softly behind us and the rusted blocks with names of victims were hanging above us as we talked about our lives in America today. Each block had a name, a family, a story, a lesson, and they were all equally important. To see my faculty and peers take the time to drive all the way to Alabama and learn about the harsh realities of slavery really struck me. It showed progress, and that there are still plenty of good people in the world today. It takes people to get out of their comfort zone and to learn from the mistakes of the past, in order for us to progress as a country.”

Ms. Claycomb explained that she would never forget the trip as it “showed me the true love and support of Georgetown College. My faculty and peers displayed the core Christian values that are taught at our College.”

In preparation for the Life Every Voice conference, students are being invited to submit essays and artistic creations related to the conference theme. They will be recognized at a ceremony during the conference.

Brad Elliott Stone, a 1998 graduate of Georgetown College who is now a professor of Philosophy and formerly chair of the Department of African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University, will be the featured speaker for the conference. He will also make presentations to student classes both days and will deliver the College’s 2019 Danford Thomas Memorial Lecture at 4 p.m. on Feb. 28, to which the public is invited. Dr. Stone is rated one of America’s 300 Best Professors by The Princeton Review.

Joining Dr. Stone in classroom presentations and on a public forum at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28 will be Evan Milligan, Equal Justice Initiative Program Manager. He spent years advocating for poor people in Alabama as a community organizer and EJI Justice Fellow before attending New York University School of Law, where he participated in the Criminal Defense and Reentry Clinic and EJI's Equal Justice and Defender Clinic. In New York, he interned for the Legal Aid Society and Bronx Defenders. He has a B.A. in Religion from Birmingham-Southern College and returned to EJI in 2016 after graduating from NYU Law.

The panel discussion on racism and reconciliation that evening will include both Dr. Stone and Ms. Boone as well as local NAACP field organizer Keturah Herron. Also at that time, Georgetown College students will be honored for their essays and artistic creations related to the conference theme with awards given for those chosen from among submitted entries.

Both the Danford Thomas Memorial Lecture and the evening panel discussion on Feb. 28 are open to the public. The sessions will be held in the Ward Room of the Ensor Learning Resource Center on the main campus. The Ensor Learning Resource Center is located near the intersection of South Mulberry and East College Streets in Georgetown.

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