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Houston, TX holds Civil Rights Conference

Posted by Ryan Hall

In Wake of Ferguson, Houston Activists Come Together to Call for Local Action

A diverse group of community activists and civil rights organizations have joined forces to host a conference focused on civil rights in 2014.  The conference was held in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the historic Voting Rights Act in 2015.  The conference took place on Saturday September 20, 2014, at the University of Houston Central Campus, Science & Engineering Complex Auditorium.

“This conference is meant to inspire communities to engage in the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution,” Sister Ruth Nasrullah with the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. “The country is reeling from the crises like what we’re seeing unfolding in Ferguson; but now, more than ever, it’s important that we take action, not only by protesting in the streets but also by lifting our voices at the ballot-box.”

Nasrullah references the recent shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, MO.   Since August, thousands of activists from across the country have flocked to Ferguson to protest what appears to be a case of unwarranted deadly force used against an unarmed African American youth.

The conference was preceded by a screening of “Neshoba: The Price of Freedom” a film documenting the murder of three civil rights workers at the height of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of this crime.

Conference organizers also hoped to generate a call to action for civil rights activists in response to the roll-back of the reach of the Voting Rights Act.  In 2012, key pieces of the law were struck down by the Supreme Court.

“It seems that some in this country are committed to undoing the hard-won gains of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s arguing that the law is no longer necessary,” Pedro Blandon of the Texas Civil Rights Project said. “They claim this at the same time that young Black men are being gunned down in the street, and mostly Latino immigrant children and families are being imprisoned right here in Texas.”

While conference organizers focus on a wide array of civil rights issues including immigration reform, civic engagement, voter registration, and understanding voter suppression efforts, the conference also included training on community organizing, how to navigate the American electoral system, and how to utilize social media in order to reach other voters in their communities.

“While our communities face many challenges in today’s political climate,” Bill Crosier of the Houston Peace & Justice Center said, “by organizing, we can leverage the power that our community already has to ensure that our civil rights are protected, not only for ourselves, but for future generations as well.”

Participating Organizations Include:

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Houston Peace & Justice Center (HPJC)
Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP)
ACLU of Texas
Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC)
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP)
South Texas Center for Human Rights
Greater Houston Coalition for Justice (GHCFJ)
Black Heritage Society
Center for the Healing of Racism
SHAPE Community Center
End Mass Incarceration Houston
Middle East Student Association
Mi Familia Vota
Students for Justice in Palestine
Texans Together/VoteRiders
Texas Organizing Project
Houston Immigrant Rights Organizing Committee (HIROC)
KPFT Radio
UH Muslim Student Association
University of Houston

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