Hosted by Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., the 40th annual conference of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund, titled "A More Perfect Union: Closing the Gap", will once again bring influential thought leaders together in a an innovative exchange of ideas.
"Conferences are historically about exchanging ideas and disseminating information," explained Rev. Jackson. "What makes our gathering different is our conference sets an agenda and strategy for our organization and progressive activists around the nation."
This year's conference will focus in-depth on the retreat from the hard won gains of the Civil Rights Movement going on around the country. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition continues to declare the movements for social justice, women's rights, workers' rights, and civil rights legitimate, necessary and worth preserving.
The conference kicks off Saturday, June 18, at PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th Street, when the group hosts a nationally televised, live, town hall discussion, "From Chaos to Community." The session aims to explore solutions for the vast economic, legal and social disparities that confront the nation, communities of color and the working poor.
"The same states' rights forces that resisted progress are working in labor strongholds like Michigan and Wisconsin to cut the heart out of the progressive movement for social change," said Jackson. "Civil rights are threatened by the quest for corporate profits and the creation of artificial political majorities created by hyper-incarceration, violent suppression of dissent and conservative states' rights formulations."
Renowned talk-show host, author, political commentator and entrepreneur, Tavis Smiley, will moderate a dialogue with wrongfully convicted individuals. The session will address how these men and women can start their lives anew after serving long sentences for something they did not do.
A number of panels and workshops will be offered over the five days to address a gamut of social problems in the U.S. and abroad. For example, the convention will feature a panel on "the black male crisis" on Sunday, June 19, seeking to explore the soaring incarceration, unemployment and death index rate of African American males in the climate of the new Jim Crow. Another session will delve into the Middle East crisis and the growing economic opportunity in Africa. Panelists from across the globe and representing the organization's branches in London, Ghana and the Caribbean will participate.
Corporate leaders, hoping to capitalize on the nearly trillion dollars of Black buying power in the U.S., will participate in a number of sessions on diversity, minority supplier and franchise opportunities, and African American consumers. Job seekers will have the opportunity to meet with recruiters from a number of businesses during the conference's "Career Opportunity and Development Expo.
PUSH For Excellence will host a session, Monday, June 20, to present global models for school reform that are applicable in both rural and urban settings. The session will provide registrants with highlights from programs and initiatives in the field of education that present promising possibilities for creating change.
The issue of church and home foreclosure will be thoroughly discussed during the 1,000 Churches Connected Ministers' Luncheon, June 21. Rev. Jackson has worked with pastors around the country to help churches negotiate better terms with their banks. Religious groups of all kinds have suffered in recent years as donations have declined.
Convention festivities also include a youth and hip hop forum; a star-studded, red carpet tribute to Judge Greg Mathis during the PUSH/Excel Scholarship Gala. Rainbow PUSH will deliver some $250,000 in college scholarships to college bound youth at the gala. Some of the biggest names in gospel music will perform during the Rev. Clay Evans Gospel Concert.
Conference highlights include:
Saturday, June 18: Rev. Jackson, along with attorney Janice Mathis, vice president, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and Barbara Arnwine, executive director, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, will lead a Saturday Morning Forum session and pose the question, "Where Do We Go From Here? States Rights v. Civil Rights". The aim of this session is to explore and share the most promising solutions for the vast economic, legal and social disparities that confront the nation, communities of color and the working poor. As part of the organization's ongoing call for fairness within the criminal justice system, Tavis Smiley will moderate a session focusing on the national problem of wrongful convictions. Wrongfully convicted individuals and their families will be featured as we explore the devastating effects of this failure of the justice system on the victims and those who love them.
Sunday, June 19: Grammy Award winning gospel artists Byron Cage, Jennifer Holiday, Bishop Neal Roberson and Kim Stratten will headline the Clay Evans Gospel Concert at Christ Universal Temple, 11901 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago.
Monday, June 20: The day will focus on international, business and education issues. Karen G. Mills, administrator, Small Business Administration, will bring remarks during the business luncheon along with honoree Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy's. Judge Greg Mathis will be honored at the PUSH for Excellence Scholarship Gala, highlighting his remarkable journey from jail to judgeship.
Tuesday, June 21: The focus will be "Labor, Clergy and Sports" and highlights include a career opportunity and development expo, a session on home foreclosure prevention, ministers' luncheon, and athletic banquet keynoted by Dave Bing, Mayor of Detroit and retired NBA player. The 1,000 Churches Connected Ministers' Luncheon will feature prominent denominational leaders. Bishop Charles E. Blake will keynote the event and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will bring an update on the church/home foreclosure crisis.
Wednesday, June 22: Participants will focus on Women and Health. A morning health plenary will address the burden of obesity in the African American community and how obesity leads to other health related illnesses such as heart disease, sleep apnea, and cancer. The women's luncheon will be keynoted by Gary, Indiana mayoral candidate Karen Freeman-Wilson.
To register for "A More Perfect Union: Closing the Gap" or for more information visit the Rainbow PUSH Coalition website at www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 256-2700
Rainbow PUSH 40th annual conference
Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel
720 S. Michigan Avenue