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The Long Game: Why the 1957 Civil Rights Act Still Matters Today

Tuesday, September 26, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Erin Looney
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If you missed “The Long Game: Why the 1957 Civil Rights Act Still Matters Today” at UDC Law earlier this month, you can see the program in its entirety on UDC-TV’s YouTube page or see the UDC-TV broadcast schedule to find out when it will air on UDC-TV (in Washington, DC, Comcast Channel 98, RCN Channel 19, and Verizon Channels 19 and 21).

On September 13, Professor Wade Henderson and two panels of Civil Rights activists, experts, scholars, and professionals spoke to the UDC Law community about the current and future impact of The Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first federal civil rights legislation passed by the US Congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

The program opened with an interview with Henderson and Dr. Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought at the University of Pennsylvania. Berry talked about the history of the Civil Rights Act and its effect on the current US social and political climate, urging people to seek out and share personal stories that could transition discussions into action. Berry shared some of her own fascinating stories of her civil rights, gender equality and social justice work before the program moved on to the second session, The State of Federal Civil Rights Enforcement.

Dr. Berry and Professor Henderson
Dr. Berry and Professor Henderson

The panel featured Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference; Catherine Lhamon, Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; and Gustavo Velasquez, Director, Washington-Area Research Initiative, Urban Institute and was moderated by Karen Narasaki, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Acknowledging that enforcing the 1957 Civil Rights Act in the current climate is not easy, Velasquez cautioned the audience to engage carefully with opponents as “how we defuse the other side is important.” Lhamon stressed the need to continue to advocate for civil rights because “the harm that can be done in those four year can harm us for generations.” Gupta added, “Activism is a force multiplier.”

Panel featuring Velasquez, Lhamon, Gupta, and Narasaki
Velasquez, Lhamon, Gupta, Narasaki

The final panel shifted toward what comes next with The Next Frontier of Civil Rights. Moderated by Ashley Allison of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the panel consisted of Rashad Robinson, Executive Director, Color of Change; Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal; and Eve Hill, Partner, Brown Goldstein & Levy and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, US Department of Justice. Robinson talked about the role of poverty in the fight for civil rights, and Hill reminded citizens of the power of our individual votes in electing officials who will protect and develop the rights outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1957. McGowan reminded the audience that equality is not a one-sum term and that marginalized people continue to fight, even when the law formally protects them. “For LGBT people,” McGowan said, “we both demand formal equality and we know it's not enough. We demand lived equality."

Panel featuring Robinson, McGowan, Hill, and Allison
Robinson, McGowan, Hill, Allison

Henderson closed the night by tying together the panel themes and thanking the audience, many of whom had asked thoughtful questions of the panelists throughout the evening.

UDC Law would like to thank the panelists, Professor Henderson, and our guests for a timely and stimulating evening focused not only on the 1957 Civil Rights Act but on the work still left to do.

Watch this space!


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