tv Georgetown University Discussion on Civil Rights Movement in Northern... CSPAN January 3, 2019 4:51am-6:23am EST
beach city. and it is a major tourist destination, most well known for being a place where people might come to enjoy the day, be a tourist and also now as a popular place for young tech startup companies. >> and on sunday at too p.m. eastern on american history tv, santa monica pier historian jim harris author of santa monica pier, a sentry on the last great pleasure pier, shares the history of this iconic landmark. >> we see almost 9 million people a year come to the pier and that's people of all walks of life, all income levels, all interest. there's almost as many different people coming to the pier now that come due visited. if you were to walk down the pier today, on any given day and ask what brought them here, you would get a different reason from each one of them. >> what c-span city tour of santa monica california, saturday at noon eastern on c-
span twos book tv and sunday it number two p.m. on american history tv on c- span 3. working with our cable affiliates as we explore the american story. georgetown university hosted a form recently were civil rights advocates talk about movement started by the native american communities in the us. this is about 90 minutes. >> would you like to go first, in case you delete? >> okay. >> good afternoon. so i would take up gerard challenge and walk off in protest, but then we would have to start late. so i'm going to be obedient,
some here who know me would say that would be for a change. [ laughter ] that we are not going to go there. so, as gerard so eloquently, and thank you so much, read from the letter from birmingham jail, which by the way, we in the civil rights movement in the united states consider one of our sacred texts from civil rights, it's an extraordinary, extraordinary document. and if you haven't read it, i strongly encourage you to do so. so thank you for doing that. and so, we have four speakers, each of whom has an extraordinary wealth and diversity of experience, real engagement, as gerard said, in civil activism, in studying it and engagement with people in it. so i really want to hear from them. i just wanted to remind you that i was-americans have been involved on the side of civil rights for a very long time,
and i'll give you just two names:dorothy day and mother jones. notice they are women. just saying. so one of the reasons why 2018 and 50 years later is so important, is not just because of the tragedies of 1968, the assassination, that there were extraordinary events in the movement then. the american indian movement, was founded in 1968, la raza, was somewhat say was found in a bit earlier, some would say later. but generally it was considered to have been founded in 1968. and in 1968 there were two extraordinary events right here in washington, dc:the poor people's campaign, which was a
really a statement about collaboration, unification across broad socioeconomic issues and by the way, crossing the racial divide. that was the poor people's campaign. and culminated in resurrection city, for those of you who don't know about it, i strongly encourage you to look it up. resurrection city, right on the grounds of the lincoln memorial and people gathered there for some time to say, we want you to hear what our issues are. we are crying out to you. and again, it was extraordinarily diverse and with actually, come to think of it, political theater. we didn't think about it, those of us who were involved, but it really was political theater. so i'd like to introduce the speakers, kathleen kennedy townsend , who's going to speak first. she actually has associations with georgetown. she was the founder of the center for retirement initiatives at georgetown university, our mccourt school of public policy , she is the
director of retirement security at the epi, economic policy institute. she was of course our wonderful lieutenant governor of maryland from 1995-2003. and i think really importantly, for the potential to engage in nongovernmental organizations and civil rights, she was one of the founders of civic works in baltimore. and i'm hoping you can spend at least a couple of minutes talking about that, because it's a real community-based development organizations and it's had extraordinary success. kathleen? >> thank you very much. i want to thank you for your leadership and making this happen. this is a really broad topic, what happened in ireland, the good friday accords. and i listened to the panel a little bit before me and i want to congratulate you for talking so much and eloquently about what happened in ireland. as you know a number my
relatives were involved in that good friday accords, my aunt jean, who is my godmother was the ambassador to ireland at that time, and my brother-in- law was in prison for 17 years because he was in ireland and he was arrested, which they agreed was unfairly. and it was not good to be in prison for 17 years. so it's not been very helpful for his life. anyway, he did produce my niece, whose wonderful, saorsa , which means freedom if you know gaelic, which i'm sure some of you do. anyway, let me just talk a little bit, i'd like to talk a little bit about my family and the idea that the sense of discrimination where a sense of justice comes from. and as some of you know, obviously my family has been involved in politics. [ laughter ] >> just a little bit. >> i just want to know how bright this group is. are you awake at work clock
in the afternoon? >> yes you are. so irish catholic and became, as you know to the united states and when they arrived there were no signs, help wanted no irish need apply. and there was a lot of discrimination against the irish in our own country. and my grandmother rose kennedy made my family very well aware of that discrimination. my grandfather joe kennedy left boston because of that discrimination and moved to new york because he thought he couldn't really make his way in boston, even though his father- in-law had been the mayor of the city. you could get ahead in politics, but you can get ahead in business. and my father, when he was at college, i say this because many of you know, my uncle john kennedy became the first catholic to be elected president, but he did it during a very tough time and there was a lot of discrimination. billy graham, who just died and norman vincent peele, who many
of you may never have heard of but wrote the power of positive thinking wrote a letter in that 1960 campaign to say we should not elect john kennedy president of the united states because he would be controlled by the pope. and that was pretty discriminatory and everybody kept saying how great billy graham's, just remember that. and eleanor roosevelt said the same thing. didn't want john kennedy because she thought he was too close to the pope. so people have their prejudice. they overcome it in many ways but sometimes they really didn't. interestingly enough, i thought i tell you about a story that you don't know about my father. there was a priest in cambridge, massachusetts, called father feeney who said the only catholics could get to heaven. which, you know the story? how many people know the story? two people, great. and my father thought that was
an outrageous idea. he thought what kind of god would say only people born in a certain time in history with a certain family or certain ireland could get to heaven? that makes no sense. and god creates the whole world, he obviously wants everybody to have a way to get to heaven. so he called up his friend, who at that time with the cardinal, cardinal cushing, and said could you give him defrocked and thrown out of the church? which cardinal cushing nicely did, so everybody can get to heaven whether they are catholic or not, just so you know. so when those priests say only catholics can get communion, my mother and my father never believe that an art walled always got communion. ? some may not know who he is.? they don't know who he is and they are probably horrified by that store so i moving right along. [ laughter ] my second story, it's also kind of funny story moving right along. so john kennedy is running for president in 1960, and martin
luther king is arrested. i'm sure you have heard of that story. and my uncle, john kennedy calls coretta scott king, martin luther king's wife, to say i am so sorry. and my father at 1st is horrified because he thinks how would that play in the south? that he thinks about for 12 hours and realizes that it is vacuous that martin luther king's sentence in georgia to four months hard labor for a ticket, you know, a speeding ticket. he thinks that is completely ridiculous. so he doesn't call coretta scott king, he calls the judge. much more effective, right? so he gets him off immediately and gets him out of jail and gets him free. so at that point what what a normal person to when they get out of jail? they would endorse the guy that got you out of jail, but martin luther king is really self- righteous. that's how he gets to be where he gets to be and says
sometimes the politically astute is morally just and so he's not going to have anything to do with my uncle, or my father. but luckily, daddy king, martin luther king's father says i will vote for a catholic or the devil himself. what you think of that sentence? [ laughter ] if he will wipe the tears from my daughter-in- law's eyes, coretta scott king. i got a church full of votes were john kennedy. so, that church full of boats produced large, we got not only his church but large numbers of african-americans voted for john kennedy in 1960 in between irish catholics and the african- americans, john kennedy won the election of 1960. when my uncle john kennedy
heard daddy king's speech, i'll vote for a catholic or the devil himself, he realized, oh my god, martin luther king has somebody who is prejudiced as a father, which is kind of ironic, don't you think? but then he said, but we all have fathers. [ laughter ] >> and most of them are prejudiced. >> will not that they are all prejudiced but my grandfather didn't always have a good reputation on some other things, which we are not going to get into right now. okay i wanted to lay the groundwork that it is kind of, when you talk about discrimination, there are all sorts of ins and outs of discrimination. and it goes all in different ways. when president kennedy then became president announced that my father, his brother was attorney general, people were as you can imagine horrified that you would appoint your own
brother attorney journal. but as my uncle said, he needs a little legal experience before he goes into the world. [ laughter ] some of you aren't laughing at that either. [ laughter ] most americans didn't either. [ laughter ] anyway, and my father really did not understand, i would say, the real depth of discrimination that african americans based. he sought a little bit because when he was at the university of virginia he was in charge of inviting people there, and he invited ralph bunche, who had one, the first african- americans who had won the nobel peace prize for his work. and when he invited him to charlottesville virginia in the 50s, it was no place for them to stay, because they wouldn't allow african-americans's to stay in any hotels. so my mother and father had him
stay at their house. all night long they were pelted with apples and oranges and rocks and screaming people stood at their house all night long telling them how terrible they were that they would have an african-americans at their house. so it was not unaware of the problems, but it wasn't as the death that he felt when he was the attorney general. i'm not going to get into all the details because i'm one of four people in the panel. but the fact is that over the course of president kennedy's presidency and with my father, they saw incredible discrimination that african- americans faced down south and also in the north. and they integrated the university of alabama at the university of mississippi. they fought for the protection of the freedom fighters, freedom writers, particularly in the terrible situation in anniston and in selma. and they understood that a lot of work had to be done and that
in 1963, in june 1963 president kennedy gave a speech in which he said that civil rights was a moral issue. and martin luther king said it was the most extraordinary speech by a president of the united states to actually save that civil rights was a moral issue, and which president kennedy said with any of you, any white people, want to change the color of their skin? it was clear that most white people would not want to change the color of the skin, so he put it in very personal terms and in a moral term, not just what is right and wrong terms, not just in a legal term. and that night, medgar evers who was a great civil rights leader was killed. so it just underscored the terrible situation that african- americans held, and later on when my uncle was killed, lyndon johnson took up the mantle and i think because of
the horror over my uncle's death, he was able to get the 1964 civil rights act passed in the 1965 voting rights act passed and was very, very tough to get both of those past. and when they were passed, lyndon johnson said there goes the south. he knew that the south would no longer vote democratic, which is exactly what happened and the republicans took advantage of that. but he thought it was more important to do what is right than what was politically expedient. after that, my father expanded his views about what needed to be done in this country. he went out and visited cesar chavez who was on a hunger strike, and work with hispanic workers, particularly those who were working in the fields. and then when he ran for president, the first 90 days of his campaign, he spent 15 of
those days on native american reservations, which weren't going to produce a lot of votes, but he really thought they had been mistreated in american history and thought that's what he should be spending his time doing. and when members of his campaign said this was a waste of his time, he said if you think it's a waste of my time, get off my campaign. you don't understand what this campaign is about, it's about making sure that this is a country in which people are treated with dignity and justice and a feeling of love towards one another. i could go in much greater detail about all of these things, but irene asked me to also speak about other things, which is civic works. before i became lieutenant governor, i thought that all young people should have the same opportunity i did. now, they are not all going to
be children of robert kennedy and be as lucky as that, and ethel kennedy, she had a lot to do with it, too. [ laughter ] >> and how. >> you guys, [ laughter ] hello! i really should tell you my irish story about my mother. can i just interrupt this just to tell you the irish story about my mother? so my mother went to college. and unlike my father who studied really hard and worked really hard, my mother really liked to play the ponies. and she had a crush on an irishman who was a really good writer. and he was writing at madison square garden . and he had a white horse, this great white horse, beautiful horse. and she figured that if she pretended, she wanted to get to know the guy. and so she pretended she was in new york times reporter.
in fact, she thought that would be impressive to him. so, she called him up and she said i'm a new york times reporter let's meet at place in new york. and she went up to him and she had a 10 minute interview with him and after 10 minutes, he realized she had nothing to do with the new york times. and he got up, so angry and left. and my mother did not like being dissed. so she went out and bought green dye and snuck into madison square garden and painted his horse green. and he thought it was the venezuelans. [ laughter ] >> can you take one or two minutes about civic works? >> you did like my story? nobody is going to remember anything i said except about
the green dye. okay, civic works, when i got all the kids in maryland to do community service as a condition of high school graduation because i thought every person should loan that they could make a difference. so take you very much, if you grew up in maryland you have to do community service, 75 hours before you graduate from high school. and then, after that a young man came up to me at a wedding and said kathleen i hear you like young people doing those things while i want to start an urban service corp.. i said great let's do it and we started it and just last a month ago we celebrated the 25th anniversary, it is now $12 million-budget, we also have a charter school, we have 1100 kids involved every year in baltimore and we are very proud of it. it is a diverse group. we picks up homes, we help the
elderly and we work with johns hopkins to train people to become nurses and healthcare technicians. so it just shows that anybody young or whatever you are, if you got a great spirit and if you got a good idea you can pursue it and you can succeed. thank you very much, [ applause ] >> so i actually love the story about the pain. in the 1960s, and i don't know how many of you were around washington, dc , but every once in a while on st. patrick's day a certain statue of a certain famous artist person, the statue being on massachusetts avenue would be painted green. just saying. speaking of 25 years, i would like to introduce sylvia wilber . we are celebrating our 25th anniversary of friendship.
and sylvia is really remarkable from the menominee nation of wisconsin. and she has played really, really significant roles in civil rights both within the tribe, let me say that, and ensuring rights of women and so forth. and also, she doesn't like to really take credit for this, but she and really pensively two other women were really responsible for regaining sovereignty for the menominee people after it had been removed by the us government. she's also a wonderful storyteller. so, sylvia, can you compress your extraordinary several decades of life into about 10 minutes? >> yes. >> and then, we are hoping that we will have opportunities for more story telling leader. sylvia, please.
>> well, thank you. i want to be really, want you to know that i'm really happy to be here. when i was first asked to come, i didn't know i would fit in. i have known irene for 25 years, and so when you know i read, you get dragged into stuff that you don't know what you're getting involved in, but i can stick with her. that, i can tell you. so i'm happy to be here and, as i was able to have lunch with some of the organizers and talk with them and some of the speakers, we do fit in. but some of what happened to us happened prior to what you are going through. i'm happy to know that president kennedy was the one that, he came to our reservation, he's revered up there because he did come. and, you know, indian people don't vote a lot and that's because they don't vote if they
don't believe. and so if they don't want to, they don't come, and we know that. so part of my struggle and part of our struggle in regaining was to get the faith and keep the trust of our people. and i'm one of them. so if, you know, you know how determined i can be, there's many more out there that is in. but i'm a member of the menominee indian tribe of wisconsin and we are continuous residents of the state of wisconsin. there are 571 federally recognized tribes. there are some state recognized tribes and there are tribes that are not recognized, because their land-based was taken from them. and so, in order to be recognized, they have too show that they lived there. they lived there, but it was taken. and so, as i have listened to the speakers this afternoon and talked about the civil rights we've experienced that.
but it was a way of life for us and a matter of survival. if you can equate to that. but we weren't discovered. a lot of people think they discovered us. we were here. [ laughter ] and so, when they came, so it's a matter of, the menominee tribe had 10 million acres in the state of wisconsin. 10 million. as the settlers came in and they came to settle and establish america, they began then to move the indians, and it's all tribes, move them and take their land. there was a series of treaties that were done and started with the indians, the federal government started the treaties where they promised to hold the land forever so that we would always have a place and take care of us.
and it got smaller and smaller. and that happened to all tribes, not only menominee , but i'm talking about menominee because i am and we were the ones that were terminated and lost their federal recognition with an act of congress. the treaties started, our first treaty was with the federal government in 1831. and gradually got down to 1854 when our current treaty right where we live now in wisconsin along the banks of the wolf river, near green bay, if you know the packers, ways to occupy green bay as well. but we were squeezed in the area we are now. so that was 234,000 acres of land, compared to the 10 million that we had, which is
quite significant, i would have to say. and then in 1856 the stockbridge muncie tribe got two townships of our land as well, because they were replaced and had to find a place to stay. so, the treaty. indeed, but the federal government didn't quit attempting to get rid of their indian problem. so they such laws as the indian reorganization act, the relocation and then the allotment act so that the whole premise would be, try to assimilate the menominees into the mainstream of society. and so the federal government in 1854 is when our current
reservation was established, and we agreed to be, our chiefs and the forefathers agreed to that reservation. there were trees there, it was land that was not very good that they bought because it was marshy , but in essence, it's really beautiful. we have a forest there that everybody envies. we have the wolf river and so they've been decided to allow the tribe and built a sawmill for the tribe to harvest the dead and down timber. the bureau of indian affairs, which is the federal government, did the management of the mill in the forest the indians were able to cut and harvest the dead and downed trees, but that went to pay for their services that the government was providing. so although the money that the indians made went into the federal treasury for the menominee and indians, but you
couldn't get the money unless congress agreed to do it, so took an act of congress. in 1934, the bureau was mismanaging our forest and so the menominee sued them in the court of claims and actually one a judgment of $8 million. and we got the money and that went into the treasury in 1951. well, by then, they were still in their movement of getting rid of the indians and come then the termination. we had a senator by the name of arthur watkins at the head of the interior and insular affairs. and the menominees had to request the money. they went to ask for a per capita payment of $1500. there were thousand 270 members on our tribal role, and i only
remember that because that's what prompted our determination to occur and are roles to be closed. and so, we had to agree to it. senator watkins came out of the reservation to convince us that they wanted to liberate us and they wanted then to be able to, we were being treated like babies. he had all kinds of things, but our people were skeptical of what was going on because this land was supposed to be ours forever and save so we would have a place to live, and our children would, and the descendents would this would be forever. and indian people are attached to their land. i remember what's been taught to me in our culture, in our stories are if the land is there, the tribe will be there. the land leaves, the tribe is gone.
and so we had the connectedness and the love and we were poor it was a simple way of life, but it was our home, forever. so there was some kind of security there. then when termination occurred, he came and couldn't get the tribe and their general counsel for two days to agree to termination, but then he tried the concept of termination. so they boated on the concept of termination and the vote was 179 -5 opposed to it. he took that vote and went back , just after he left there was confusion and concern as to what was really happening. so the menominees took another vote and i think it was 190 something to zero. they didn't want the money, they didn't want to be terminated, but he wouldn't take that vote. it was the concept of termination, so he went back
and they drafted the termination act and menominees were terminated then in june 1954. i was just 100 years after the creation of our reservation. so by then, there had to be a plan developed and what to do with the assets of the tribe, because the tribe held all the land as in one communally. and they didn't like that either, because they couldn't get the land. it was harder to get the land if it was held but individual allotments, indian people lost their land and so that went back to someone else, so that is how len got so small. so anyway, the indians, menominees didn't understand it, didn't want it, didn't have the experience either of creating a plan to put all the assets of the tribe.
so finally congress understood that, i figured they were stalling, so told them if you don't have a plan to us by february 1 of 1959, the secretary will develop a plan. and, if you don't agree with the plan in three months, then the secretary will name a trustee and he will disperse. so the menominees felt it was kind of bitter to try to do something. they named a 4-member coordinating and negotiating committee. one of the, the chairman of that was a menominee, but he worked for the bureau were 20 some years, so i think he had the mindset of the bureau. and they developed a plan, created estate corporation, menominee inc. to receive all of the assets, the land, forest, machinery, whatever was there, buildings
that the tribe owns. he got that and whatever money was there. he got the corporation, got that and in two complicated trust, the menominee common stock and voting trust that had three members, three non- menominees, four menominees and an assistant trust that was operated by the first wisconsin trust of milwaukee, bank of milwaukee. all of the minors shares to the assistance trust and incompetence. now, they never had a hearing for who would be an incompetent person, but there were somebody selected them and they were put in that category. that amounted to about 40 percent of the 327,000 shares because each one of us got 100 shares. but we didn't get the shares. the voting trust got it.
we got a certificate of beneficial interest. what we could do with that was vote once every year to replace the expiring term of a voting trust member and also to vote every 10 years whether or not we wanted to keep the trust. and so, again when i said menominees .com and vote, they didn't have a voice so you don't go to a meeting if you're overloaded, out voted by one person and nobody listens. so the fact that it was different, it was wrong, it was different. >> if you can just accelerate just a bit. the stories wonderful. can i just say that i think most people here have no idea of how all this happened with the tribes, it's really such an
important story. and i wonder if you could fast- forward to what you did in order to get the tribe reinstated? >> okay. that was my problem in coming here because how would you be able to come and tell me what a tribe is and where we were? but, we decided we needed to do something. the land was being sold and they gave it away by leases or trust. but it was still being done, we had no voice and it and we didn't know how non-indians were getting to occupy the reservation and that len not being ours. and remember, without land, there is no indian. and so, we finally, after the complicated trust system was picked up and realized, what we've been did is decided, and
we had again, that's where ted kennedy comes in. there was a fund, the native american rights fund, which was a legal firm that was established by the ford foundation to help indian people, but we needed someone from congress to request the assistance. senator kennedy did that, so he helped us draft an act that would be what we wanted. we didn't want to go back to the pertinent realism that the government had given us, but we wanted an act that would restore us to allow us to be our own southern body and care for ourselves with the protection that our land would be safe for ever and a place to live. so there's that connection with the kennedys that, again our tribe likes. >> i was wondering when you would get to that. [ laughter ]
>> well, it's there. we had also a lawyer that stepped up, wisconsin had established an organization that would provide legal expenses to people who were poor. and so one of our certificate holders were told she wasn't able to get any of the information from our company because she was only a certificate holder. she wasn't a shareholder. and so we went to the lawyer, he helped us, he became a lawyer for the group that we formed to do something to help ourselves. we knew we had to, nobody was helping us, the land was going. and so that's where the drums movement came in. it was the civil women's rights movement. and the other thing that we need to say and it may take more than three minutes, but it
was the indians, the civil women's rights movement, so you had the women and the nation becoming more powerful are taking more roles in leadership roles, and then within our tribe, our tribe was more of a maternal tribal leadership where our women, you know, it's the women that our treaties are here, these are our treaties, we should have our land sold. and my mother was one of them, ada dear was one of them, and surely daily, luis follower was one. so you had these three and the elders at that time, and they were than pushing to do it, and a part of it. so steps up the second- generation and sylvia and shirley, and we went to court and the only thing we could do was get control of the company no one would help us, we went
to court nobody would listen. so time was running out. you know, our funds were being trained, our land was being sold, so we needed to get the trust of the people to get our own people to vote again. we have had a massive proxy campaign so that they would give us their proxy so we could vote. in 1971 is when we gained control of our corporation because we won, had the most members on the voting trust. they boarded four members to the board of directors of menominee enterprises, inc. i was one of those members that got on. we establish a legislative committee, and we been moved and work diligently with our people to get them to continue to trust us, to listen to us, we listened to them, and we were successful. we got, i think, every member of congress voted in favor of
her acts, ada dear talked to the public, she was good at that. the tribes supported our act, i think every member in both houses supported the act. that past. and so the president was richard nixon and our concern was, is he going to sign it? and he was having troubles of his own at the time, but low and behold, he signed the act on december 22nd, 1973. we became then again, that we were the first tribe that congress admitted that they made a mistake and restored us to a federally recognized tribe, and here we are, were starting the process over. so i'm thinking, what i learned at that time is you don't only listen, you hear. and what you got to here's what your people are saying. and so for all of those that
are fighting for civil rights, we experienced that. but, i mean it didn't seem like a civil rights it was a matter of survival to me. so that's kind of the way it was. so there is hope, there is a movement. continue to do it. i'm sorry i took so long. >> it was beautiful, thank you. [ applause ]. sylvia, it's so important, really sorry we didn't have more time. it's important for the story to be heard, because so few people know it. and the fact that it was primarily three, four, really strong women from the tribe is just wonderful. and i think it's a good example of convergence of some of the civil rights struggles that were going on. and in your case, it was primarily the women's movement as well as the tribal
movements. thank you so much, and thank you for doing this, for coming all the way out from near green bay, wisconsin to washington dc. [ applause ] >> thank you. >> could we, would you mind, terrence being the next person to speak? >> sure. >> so, terrence, i apologize, maurice jackson let me know early this morning that he unfortunately couldn't be with us. and he said, i'm going to tell you who should be there. it should be terrence johnson. and i said perfect! so terrence johnson is a professor at georgetown in both political science and religion. isn't that a wonderful combination? i'm not going to say anything beyond that. and terrence is very knowledgeable about the history of civil rights in the united states, has been quite engaged.
and not too long ago convened a really wonderful symposium here georgetown on religion and black lives matter . and had some speakers who have been involved in charlottesville a year and a few months ago, and from howard university, etc.. so terrence if you could share with us. >> well, thank you for the invitation i want to begin by introducing you to my late grandmother, mary k johnson. she was born in alabama, was a sharecropper, spent most of her life mopping the floor either at a state hospital or cleaning white people's homes. and what's striking about her life is that despite never being called by her surname in public, often taking the bus to work in the morning at 6 am or 5 am, she found a way to find a sort of dignity in her church or within her family or in how she cared for neighbors.
and i mentioned the story very briefly because we hope have these kinds of stories, but what is interesting to me is the question of sort of working through his idea of what does it mean to be a problem? the question that dubois raised as early as 1897 is a question i think about my grandmother's life that she really reflected on. i believe that many other black women as well reflected on the same question, particularly the black church, a space that the menominee common stock and voting trust calls a sort of counter public sphere. as i think about the civil rights movement and i want to argue about that these black women who were day workers who are caretakers of white children, most of these black mill workers and preachers who would not have the resources, right, to fight against political injustice. and as i think about this idea of how you think about the problem of what it means to be a problem? these black women created these
black churches, right? a space to have these conversations and to build sort of a life that dubois called within a veil that would give the meaning. and i share this story in part to show that the civil rights movement had the sort of major tension that i think we're still trying to work through the idea that on the one hand, king is arguing for political injustice -- justice, we voting rights. but what's interesting, and i will argue that part of the problem is that when you attach human dignity to achieving voting rights, some people want to push back and say that slightly problematic, right? because what happens when the government takes away your right to vote? there's a human dignity also get erased at that moment? i think that black women in particular have been pushing back this idea of wanting to have more nuances of how we see political justice, how we achieve political justice. and so when we arrived in 57, 60 and we see the emergence of
black power, stokely carmichael and the others are saying look, is not simply about asking what people are asking politicians to give us something. we need to figure out, how been, do you amass the power to make certain demands? with this very brief indirect production is not urgent to see the emergence of trent black lives matter . black lives matter is more to do with what you do with a tortured blackbody? what you do with the lingering question of how not to be a problem the never gets addressed? you can pass voting right ask, you can pass housing ask, but when people see you as a problem, we will find different ways to segregate ourselves and figure out what do we do with this problem? and so, black lives matter emerges in part clearly because of you know, killings by officers against black men and latino men and women, but i also want to think if you look at the creed of black lives
matter , it's about how do you find human dignity? how do you sort of deal with the souls of people were black? and i want to end by saying that attention we are facing, i think as a country, right? what happens when laws are removed? how been do humans emerge? how do they respond? i think the black church is a really great example of how people have sort of built internal resources, how they find a space to talk about sort of civic responsibility, how they find a space to create schools or to create the world in which they have meaning, even when the outside world that you don't matter, right? you do not matter. and so i think we are left with the question of do we respond by creating more internal war when you are rejected the broader society? and that's the question i think we're left with now. i don't people know what to do.
and so i know we'll have a few minutes but i wanted to give the example of my grandmother and of black women using sort of their knowledge to push back at this idea of voting rights as the only way to a chew human dignity. so i'll think i'll in their. [ applause ]. >> >> that was wonderful, terrence. before we going to sonja, if i could just say when someone in the earlier panel mentioned the voting rights act, the immediate that came to mind was, oh my goodness, the voting rights act, which in some states in the last years, there have been attempts to essentially obliterate it. and some of those attempts have been rather successful. so that statement that you make about dependence on something like voter rights without consideration of what that means, if those rights are taken away is just so
important. thank you very much. and we imagine your grandmother here. >> tank you. >> sonja. so sonja gutierrez is a new friend, not even 25 days. [ laughter ] >> yes. >> and sonja is in washington dc, she is in the dc government in the department of housing, but she has actually about a 25- year career. you must've started when you were in grade school. >> i was, i'm a gifted child. [ laughter ]'s. gifted and talented. and so she has been quite active in nongovernmental organizations in the community and in the dc government, which is probably no mean feat. working towards civil rights and social justice in a wide variety of areas, housing, education, voting, etc.
and we are so happy to have you. one of the reasons that, of the people we could've selected from this area, i chose sonja is because she has this broad range, not across the topic areas, but actually does not focus on just one particular community. and that's really, really important for us now. sonja. >> thank you so much for inviting me, and that she got the right sonja. i'm not sure if you're from dc, there's another sonia gutierrez who is actually very well known with a long history of working education. she is a director of schools and she actually has a street named after her. so when the street was named after her, everybody was calling me. [ laughter ] got a street named after you! i was like, no, it's the other sonja. so that's my call to fame is
the other sonja. so yes, i've been working in civil rights. right after college i came to the district and i found my dream job, which was working for the office of human rights. at the time i was doing employment discrimination. i was the very first bilingual investigator in the agency, and lo and behold, all of a sudden you have a lot of cases that were misfiled, misplaced, forgotten, and the community, knowing there was someone who could speak spanish, now we head 300 percent increase in filings of discrimination cases. because before, the community was kind of not there. like you know there are latinos in the district. of course it's a multicultural city, but we don't have any problems with the latino community. they never file any cases. then, i moved on to fair housing with a nonprofit organization which was now called the equal rights center, and i became very focused on fair housing. i was there for five years and
came back into the district to then create the fair housing unit under the department of housing and community development. so having worked on the streets grassroots, and doing my marching and my yes, we want this [ laughter ] and we want that, i was now working with policy, and in the background. and i found out that any civil rights movement, you can have your agitators, you can have the marches, you can have all that. but if you don't have control of the money, if you don't have control of the policy, you're really not going anywhere. no matter how much you scream. and yes, you might get some publicity because someone got killed, but at the end of the day, if someone is not on your team working with you to make that policy change, to make those little changes as they are doing right now even take away some of the rights with
the current administration, but you have to have those people who are working. i'm so glad to have been here to hear the history in ireland. and how do civil rights movements grow? they grow because of injustices, because of one group over another. whether it's in ireland, whether it's in the united states, whether it's in my home country, which is columbia which is still going. but in the district it didn't just start with the civil rights movement of the 1960s. that is the movement that most people know obviously, because of the advent of the television, and people got to know what was going on here. but at the same time, he also had the chicano movement going on in the southwest. you also had the gray panthers in new york for the puerto rican community. so when you were seeing no iris please don't apply here you are also saying no mexicans, no black, no puerto rican signs. when you're having hangings in
the south of african americans, he also hangings of mexicans in the southwest. so civil rights would take the 1960s as the foundation, but it really was not the foundation, it was the explosion of civil rights. the civil rights act of 1866 was actually the very first time that race, color and national origin were written so that you could not discriminate in any services given by the government. now, did people follow it? obviously not, because then we have more civil rights movements. but you also have to realize that there were other civil rights movements. there was the women's suffrage movement, been with doctor martin luther king being the kind of character he was, he brought everything to the forefront. and that was a combination of a lot of people who didn't joined in, whether they were hispanic, whether they were black, whether they were jewish
americans , white, and also the native american communities. that has been, as i heard the people from ireland say this morning, it was something that you used as a basis. well, that has also been used as a basis in a lot of latin american countries as well, to platform obviously with a different history and a different tone. in the district, the dc, when they found that there were hispanics living in the district of columbia [ laughter ] it came, obviously as the result of violence because most movements unfortunately start as the result of people being sick and tired of being abused and then violence occurs. in 1991, it was called the mount pleasant riots, is anybody familiar with that? oh yes, if you. okay then you know that a police officer shot a man from el salvador. at the time committee itself
that neglected by police, felt neglected by the government. it did not have the services that they were entitled to by these dc offices. and i think having shot a man, some reports say in the front, a lot of the he was shot from the back. as he was leaving. created, it was the explosion. that was the catapult into civil rights being more more prominent for the hispanic community. as a result of that, there was a us commission that was brought to investigate why that was happening. at the same time, there was the very first study not only of ethnic communities, but also discrimination and poverty and everything else. so that was one of the first studies. what did they find? obviously, the latino community was not being serviced.
as a result though, that was in 1991, i came to the district in 1993 so i was actually on the civil rights task force. i was part of that. after the rights. and one of the things that we worked on was internal. in the government, through having representation in each government agency that provided direct services to the community for example the department of human services, the office of human rights, the department of behavioral health, the department of motor vehicle, the department of police department, anything that touches your life directly, there needed to be a representation in what was called the hispanic program managers program. and that person inside the agencies within talk to the directors. okay this is what the community needs within the jurisdiction of your own agency. not that we are asking for
anything special just because you happen to be latino, but that you also get the latino community the same services you were giving everybody else. so, it was now we want a piece of the pie that should have been given to us in the community. something that the police department did is that they been brought a whole bunch of new york police officers from puerto rico. which was good, they spoke spanish, however most of the community was from el salvador. so that is something that a lot of people would think, just because you're hispanic and you eat rice and beans that you're all the same. you're not. so there was a lot of conflict because the mentality, and even the spanish is the same, but the colloquial spanish that you spoke was different. so, there was tension in
between the puerto rican officers and the salvadoran community because they would say words and then somebody would be offended and became from a political background. puerto ricans being us citizens, even though they are on the island, and obviously can't vote there but once you're in the us you can vote, so that's another dc connection. [ laughter ] so that was an act to try to appease the community. and by then also, the language access act which didn't come into place until 2004, but he had already started before that, was to make government provide services to the community and the language that they spoke. also, title vi of the civil rights act has something similar, but the district then used that in many other
language access acts around the country to platform and create one for the district of columbia which is very good and it has worked. so, my experience in civil rights has been go where the money is, so when i do talk, and i talked to the let latino, or i talked to the chinese community, or the vietnamese community, or the ethiopian community, now we are starting to have a larger community from african countries who speak french. so it's the same thing. make your voice heard and make sure that you have become part of the government in order to change things. you can't change things from the outside, or you can't change things if you are not at the table, or if you have somebody that believes in your movement at the table. so working for a district
government who provides a direct service, which is housing, i make sure that there is there housing, not only for the latino community but for all the other communities, the immigrant in the district of columbia and obvious for those communities that are isolated whether by age, the elderly african-american community, the disability community. so all of these people that are disenfranchised or don't have a voice, my role is to make sure that at least in the policy that we write in our agency, that those voices are heard. similarities in the northern ireland movement is just that. you get to a point where marching doesn't do what you wanted to do anymore, and it comes to the point where okay, where are the similarities between who is in power and how can i educate them? because that is a big part of having somebody that understands what your needs
are. have them understand where you come from so they can make policy and you can affect the money. thank you. >> well done. applause. >> before i turned to the audience for questions, i have two. and you can answer one or the other of them as briefly as possible. the first is, so since the founding of this country, we have struggled with what we mean by right and how those rights should be provided. one of the most fascinating exhibits in washington dc is the viewing of the declaration of independence and the constitution showing the mockups and the changes over time as they are being developed. very, very significant changes. our bonding bothers really argued about what those should
be. they put in slavery provisions, took those out. put in women, took them out. so this was, and this was the very founding, i wonder if you think because we now think of right in very different ways, 50 years ago who would have thought about lgbtq rights? a small handful of americans. so i wonder if you can say what you think about it changing definition of rights. and what that means. and the second option is imagine it is 2025. you notice it's not too far into the future. imagine it is 2025. what do civil rights look like in the united states? and remember how much has changed in just in the last seven years. so, which question would you like? >> repeat the first one again. [ laughter ] >> you clearly don't want the
second one. the first one essentially about the definition of civil rights, and if you think that definition has changed, is changing, and if so, what that means. >> okay so i don't think the fundamental definition of civil rights has changed, or it needs to change, the fundamental basis for it. what we do understand as people become more comfortable in knowing that the rights are going to be adhered to, then the one thing that sets them apart from everybody else, whether you are lgbtq, whether you are hispanic, whether you're single woman whether you are a particular race or even a particular religious belief, then you are more encouraged to say, listen, i am proud of who i am, that i should not be discriminated
against because this person believes something else. i think you're more encouraged to then come forward and have your belief and your own rights adhered to. >> make anyone else want to venture? >> >> i think just the category of rights in general is a contested category, obviously. it's under attack and there's multiple voices wanting to lay claim to it. and my fear is that without kind of a range of historical narratives to understand it, it would be co-opted in many different dangerous ways. for example my fear is that the way were divided in our country, there is a growing number of people who feel their voices have been put to the margins, whether it's the conservatives, whether progressives, and i don't know,
i think you know, i think there are number of people now beginning to place power as an important extension of rights. again, i just see us going deeper and deeper into our silos and i'm not sure how we get out of it, right? because i think in part because we haven't dealt with the fundamental issue around laws and also in terms of how we have clung to the category of race as a way to denigrate people, and now it's come back to haunt us. and were not really sure, what do we do it? when i first moved to dc, i read a story about thomas jefferson high school and how people were concerned that the school is now mostly asian americans. and a commentator responded and said, it was interesting because they said when high school was built there was rumor that this was established to keep blacks out of the school and to keep sort of, you know white elite students in a safe space. and the irony is now we have a
new group of people who have mastered the rules and people are concerned that, wait a minute, there are a whole group of students are taking over the school, and now what do we do? we are trying to keep people out and now we have a whole new issue. i believe there is a history related to a sense of loss and the sense of being wiped out. and until we deal with those issues, i think we are going to misuse and abuse rights and we are not going to heal from some of the trauma of racism. >> and it gets in the way of the convergence and collaboration in addressing civil rights. >> >> i would love just to move off of the question of loss, the way to deal with laws is to think of the future and how to develop a great view of what a future can be. and that's, i think what obama gave us, the idea of hope for the future. one of my favorite parts of the declaration is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness, because i think what the founders meant by the pursuit of happiness was the ability to get involved in politics [ laughter ] you laugh. but if you actually go back to the 18th century, you will see that the word happiness was really associated with the notion of public happiness, and that the idea was if you really think about what that revolution was about, it was not about just my private life. the founders had nice lives, monticello, mont montpelier, john adams had a nice private life in massachusetts. what they wanted was the ability to remember the slogan of that revolution was not no taxation, it was no taxation without representation. it was the idea that you wanted to be able to control what is going on in your life. and it really goes back to the
ancient, you can tell i talked about this before, the ancient greeks which was the ancient greek word for idiot, idiotes , with someone not engaged in private life. and that is really, i did not make this up. this really comes from hannah bryant and her book on revolution where she says the whole revolution was really about where we get our happiness from was being involved in public affairs, having your views listen to and having a sense of power, that we can have a role. and that that's what the american revolution was about. they didn't want to be subjects, they wanted to have power. and one of the challenges, and i think that really rolls off your idea that if you have a world in which you're in a zero- sum game, everybody will have a sense of loss. but if you are in politics
where everybody has a role to play, then you don't have a sense of loss. and it depends on how you have politicians talk about what we are doing. is it we all could devote or we don't have the right to vote? and it was really, i've got to tell you i loved what you said at the beginning, because i thought it was so interesting about, i remember my father and martin luther king having this argument about voting. and my father thought voting was really important because that's, as you could tell, that's how the irish did well in boston. not, they didn't do well in business in boston they did well by voting and martin luther king i can see did well not by voting because the voting was difficult if your african-americans , but by doing well in the community or in a church setting. so it made it clear to me now why he didn't think it was voting. and the woman who cleans my house literally would ask me to go to her church, because when she was in church, she was the
minister. so she had a totally different role in her community. she could preach, she could sing, so she was powerful in a different setting, and it was, i just love what you said. so different situations, people have different roles. nonetheless, i still like politics despite the fact that this whole audience who has sat here and learned about the role of politics laughed at me. very hurtful. i'm going to overcome it [ laughter ] but i think that you should rethink your laughter somebody who has been involved in politics and has a really important message. get involved in politics you are much happier on tuesday when people one, the democrats did, so don't laugh. >> and i haven't kinda point you made, with the civil rights movement, it really was a project of how do we expand civil-rights? i think a lot of people assume who haven't really read history is that civil rights is being taken something away.
but when you look at african- american but it's always been how can we expand this model to make it sort of fluid for wide range of people?? yes, i think that's what i talked about president kennedy thing this is a moral issue. and i really find interesting about this, so we gave that speak in the speech in the united states in june, two days later, he went to berlin, and he said "ich bin ein berliner," which is an incredible thing when you think 20 years earlier, we were at war with germany. 20 years, just think about where you were 20 years before. you're fighting somebody, or maybe work fighting somebody. but if you're thinking about how angry you were. his brother was killed in the war. people hated the germans. they had their families were killed by the germans and he is saying right here, i am german.
so he is asking people to forgive the germans and to say i am a german. and so he is just as you say in the united states, put your feat in the steps of an african- american, he's going to be more in germany and say i am in germany. stand up for them for justice. and i thought he's really an extraordinary person to be able to say to everybody put yourself just where you don't want to be. and expand your moral universe. to think of yourself in a different place. >> and be courageous. i don't know if you have ever seen this graffiti, but one of my favorite graffiti's, >> probably not. >> it's in baltimore. working-class wall in baltimore. >> then of course i've seen it. >> a white wall in baltimore sprayed in the pink is the
phrase, "democracy:it's not just a greek myth." >> that's good. >> isn't it wonderful? sylvia, would you like to say something about, i wonder if you could imagine 2025 and say what you think civil-rights is going to be like in the united states, briefly, in 2025. >> well, i think if we all listen and if we all learn, you've got to listen to people. a lot of people don't listen and they don't hear, and so they proceed in their righteous way of doing things because they think they are the leaders. and if you don't know how to lead, you should get out of the field. and that's kind of where it is. we all have our own feelings, our own knowledge and our own way of life.
but that doesn't mean ours is better than anybody else, so let's start listening and let's start accepting let's start realizing we are not the most important person here. that's, kind of the way of life and we have to learn how to share, we have to learn how to care. and, it's going to work, because people are going to step up to do it. it might seem like it's the end of the world. it's not going to be the end of the world if you're going to really care who you are and who your next person is, or who your neighbor is, and learn to listen and hear. >> thank you. >> may i add something real quickly? >> yes. >> i just wanted to also talk about the expanding of the civil rights. the district of columbia has 19 protected categories. i think this is the most of any jurisdiction at the local
level. so federal level civil rights laws, at least the fair housing protects seven categories. now, my experience was when i started with the district of columbia, there were 16 categories at the time. it didn't matter if you had 16, 7 or 25. if you don't have the leadership who was to enforce it, it doesn't really matter. you keep adding more categories. so my experience when i came to the office of human rights was national origin is not being enforced. because all of the cases were going through the cracks. so, it's not only expanding civil rights to include other groups, but making sure that it's actually enforced. it's not at the federal level, then at the federal level, or the county level or the city level. >> this is such an important
point. when we are talking about civil rights and human rights and we reflect back on the un declaration of human rights, imagine that. >> right. >> sometimes when i'm teaching ethics and teaching about human rights declaration, inevitably a student will say, well, this is wonderful it reads nicely, but that's a long time ago and a lot of regulations and logs have been based on that, but they are not applied. and, inevitably a student will say do we have such a thing as blue helmet soldiers for human rights? do you know what blue helmet soldiers are? they are the un soldiers. do we have someone who goes out and ensures that these international protection mechanisms and national protection mechanisms, etc., really are enforced. and we know that that doesn't
happen at the national level consistently, and we know it doesn't happen at the local level. i wonder if we can take some questions from the audience. surely you have some questions. yes? >> this is my former trade union category i have others that are closer to the irish discussion, but i want to comment on the political question. i would say there is absolutely a role in politics, but that's not essential. it's a necessary condition to be happy on tuesday it's an essential condition to continue to organize, organize and organized or agitate, agitate, agitate as frederick douglass said, because you have got to get in position, but then you got to keep the cannibal. and that's on the political side. so i think absolutely it's a mixture of both, the political action to get the elected, but you have to be able to hold them accountable. and it doesn't stop on tuesday.
>> i know. i was telling them that that's the road to happiness, is to always be involved in politics. did i get any response? [ laughter ] >> i think sometimes that maybe when you talk about politics, people politics in a broad sense, it's the election process. and in some communities, i think that it gets reported at the horserace level rather than say, power politics. the other things we were talking about earlier, the protest is politics as well. but i think that sometimes he gets caught up with politics meaning, oak, that's the party stuff. >> that's really an important distinction, because increasingly and globally we are really talking about civic engagement and civic being perhaps more broadly considered than politics which some may consider just part of the
political process. but in other countries actually it's kind of not limited to the political parties. so if you're talking about political engagement it really is much broader than political parties. it's an important point. >> was that good, huh?? surely we have other questions. >> i was wanting you mentioned a little bit about the role of having written law is so granted it wasn't always apply the way it was supposed to be but what you think, do you think that might differentiate between the civil rights between united states versus other places that have that to build off of? >> right to have the written law that someone was conscious enough to have it in their, and in other countries, having only lived in whether one of the country which was my country some of those laws have not
been there. we have really poor laws regarding people with disabilities. we have poor laws regarding construction. or even in hispanic, spanish speaking country the whole thing up -rights slowly coming into fruition now and some countries are actually putting protections for lgbtq immunities, colombia being one of them. but not every country in latin america is very friendly to that. so you need to have, that's just an example, so you need to have civic engagement, not necessarily political because you could get killed in columbia particularly, and i'm sorry it i can only speak about colombia. you have union workers being killed when you make too much noise. columbia is one of those countries that has the most union people, newspaper people,
being killed because of what the right or the movement they make. so yes, you need to engage the community and here in the district we have really good laws, but perhaps in the dmv area, which is the district maryland virginia area, some of the other localities don't have as expensive laws. you can take that, and how do you make those changes? again, you need to be in the budgeting cycle. in the district of columbia not sure how it works in ireland, each agency in the district has a public hearing on their budget. when i talked to communities, when i talked to the ethiopian communities, the chinese community, always be present at the budget hearings. always be present and know your stats. know how your community is being serviced or not serviced,
because that's where the council hears and that's where you are being representative and that's where it counts. so always be known, make yourself a nuisance. i mean there are people in the council hearings and you know them for years, oh yeah, that so-and-so. and they come and speak about every issue, but at least it's in the consciousness. and that's how you make change in policy and how the money then gets diverted to affecting those communities. >> and that's engagement in the political process, because those activities, those are hearings that are part of the political process. any other questions? >> i think it's time. >> so one quick point about the laws. really, thank you for your question. so as you know the united states is considered by many, by some in a pejorative way, to be the most litigious country in the world.
and that's not necessarily the teachers were good thing, for protecting human rights etc. and on the other hand i'm sure as you all know, that there are many international conventions to which we have not agreed that have to do with protection of civil rights and soar forth, including for example the rights of the child. that's an extraordinarily important international convention, to which we are not a signatory for political reasons. that's fundamental rights for children. and there are others having to do with access to healthcare, etc., to which we are not a signatory because political issues, actually, get raised. so we talk a lot about civil rights and civil liberties, and they don't necessarily pay attention. >> well i think we pointed out that, when you say protect civil rights, on the other hand, there's also religious
rights, and so, you know the baking of the cake is one of the classic fights between my rights, my religious rights, not to bake the cake versus somebody's religious rights to have the cake baked. and those are two conflicting rights. and so there are rights that conflict, which we haven't discussed in any detail whatsoever, and there's the right that's the conservative, so i'm just giving you that there are two other sides the right to not have your property taken which is a conservative right that is growing exponentially where people are saying, well, if you change the laws, the zoning laws, that lowers my property. and so, it's not all, all the rights are not off to the left, as we know. there are other rights that are
more difficult and just the growth of rights is not necessarily a plus for a sense of community. so one of the things that we, i think we all need to think about is the value of rights on one hand and the value of community and a value of carrying about one another as well, and how do we raise a sense, as i think my father said after martin luther king was killed, how do we raise is since of we have to love one another and care for one another and have a sense of forgiveness towards one another? those are not the language of rights, that's the language of faith or religion, and it's much deeper language. and we need both to build a community and to build a country. so rights are part of it, but it's not the only way we go forward.
and i think the focus only on rights doesn't get us to where we need to go. >> because what we also need is ethical leadership at various levels in the public and private sector, because we need ethical leaders who understand the convergence between values and rights and how to have an appropriate balance. and shelley in with that? >> [ applause ] >> well done. nice going. [ applause ] >> you so much, everyone. [ applause ]