The city of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and Center on Race and Social Problems will host one of the largest race relation conferences to ever take place in the country. From June 3-6, the “Race in America: Restructuring Inequality” national conference will take place at various places around the university area.
“My goal was to put on the largest conference on the issue of race. There has never been a large number of scholars and experts on race together in one place at one conference,” said Larry E. Davis, Ph.D., dean and professor of Pitt’s School of Social Work and Director of the Center on Race and Social Problems. “We have some of the most prominent scholars in Pittsburgh and the country coming. I would not miss this conference.”
Davis says the Race in America conference is a solution-focused conference, with more than 45 speakers, designed to address race-related problems and disparities that appear in several areas of life. The areas that the conference will focus on are, education, economics, employment, health, criminal justice, intergroup relations, mental health and family and community affairs.
He says the main goal of this conference is for individuals to leave feeling enlightened and with information they may not have had before, but more importantly, to engage in new interactions, that otherwise might not have been experienced. Instead of just talking about the disparities, speakers will discuss how to address and fix them.
“This conference is all part of a process (to fix racial issues in America). It will push thinking, create an open dialogue and synergism,” says Davis. He adds that attendees will come away with solutions on how to resolve racial issues they may face on a daily basis and the tools they can use to fix this issue, which plagues so much of America, on various levels-locally and nationally.
The conference will consist of approximately 20 sessions and a panel discussion on “Post- Racial America- Does It and Should It Exist?” But what may be the highlight of the event, are keynote addresses from Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women and Julian Bond, a well-know social activist, Civil Rights Movement leader, politician and more. He is also the former chair of the board of the national NAACP. Malveaux will speak on “What is Economic Justice and How Do We Attain It?” at the Twentieth Century Club and Bond will discuss, “The Road to Freedom: From Alabama to Obama,” which will take place at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland.
“Bond was chosen as one of the speakers because of who he is and the work he has done. He knows the struggles of race in American and has been apart of the struggle. He has been very influential,” Davis said.
Along with the many national speakers that will be in attendance, such as President & CEO of the National NAACP, Ben Jealous, Harvard lecturer Ronald Ferguson and more, there will also be several local familiar faces. Esther Bush, president & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh will act as a moderator for one of the sessions. Bush says she feels privileged to be apart of the conference and for the opportunity to share the stage with some of the speakers.
“People need to rearrange their schedules to attend this conference,” Bush says. “It is not just for Black people. It’s for Americans-anyone who wants to learn where America is today and where it needs to go to be ahead in a global market.”
Not only does she have a few of her staff members signed up to participate in the conference, but she says she expects them to attend at least one, if not all of the free speaking events that will take place in the evening.
When it comes to Pittsburgh and its social issues, Davis says the same social problems that are being experienced here are being experienced in other cities. And the same trend of disparities among African-Americans seems to be the trend all over the country. “There are struggles with our school systems, health care and unemployment.”
Bush agrees that there are some issues in Pittsburgh and says, “Race is something we in Pittsburgh do not talk about because there is a high level of discomfort, but we need to talk about it, know what is going on and also know the why. Race is more than Black and White, it deals with so many ethnic groups.”
The conference already has approximately 500 individuals registered and is expecting more, especially during the evening events that are free and open to the public, like the keynote addresses and the panel discussion.
Bush says she hopes Pittsburgh fully understands what the conference is about and the tools and resources that have been put into it and that are available to be taken from it.
Davis urges everyone to attend and says, “It should not be missed, because there will not be another one like it again. This is not meant to be an annual conference. It’s one of those things you do once. My goal is to make it the best ever, the first time.”
“For Dean Davis to have the vision to put this together and for the several foundations to support it, is to be commended,” Bush adds.
Davis says he would like to thank the University of Pittsburgh; the various foundations that have made donations; and the City of Pittsburgh. “They viewed the need for a conference like this, had the means and demonstrated the will to make it happen,” says Davis.