The Village is on Fire: Reflections from Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference 2012
by Jamye Wooten, KineticsLive.com
A special thanks goes to Dr. Iva Carruthers for inviting me to present at the 2012 Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) . I had the wonderful privilege of co-facilitating a workshop along with Omolara Williams McCallister of Question Bridge and Zerline Hughes of the Justice Policy Institute. Our two-part workshop was entitled ”In Whose Image: Reckoning with the Power of Social and Mass Media”. Social media or “new media” is revolutionizing the way in which we receive and share news. Though we have a long way to go, we all agreed that social media is a power tool that is democratizing communication.
This year’s conference was scheduled to be held at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel in downtown Chicago, but SDPC stayed true to their mission to advocate for the least of these. Upon hearing that the Hyatt workers were on strike, the Proctor Conference made a bold decision. They decided that they would not cross the picket line and would stand in solidarity with the workers of the Hyatt. The workers concerns included poor working conditions, sub-contracting of their work, severe injuries resulting from repetitive lifting of new heavier mattresses and the termination of health benefits. Such a bold move put the conference in jeopardy and they were even told that they would be charged a $167,000 penalty for backing out of their contract. But this did not deter the leadership of Proctor Conference, they changed the venue to the Drake Hotel and negotiated a cancellation of their Hyatt contract without penalty! The change of venue was also a blessing for the Drake Hotel; they were able to offer 90 additional shifts for their employees. This exercise of faith laid an excellent foundation for the conference.
“The Village is on Fire!” was the cry of Susan Taylor, editor emeritus of Essense Magazine. She got the conference off to roaring start as she spoke of her latest project the National CARES Mentoring Movement, a national movement dedicated to recruiting and connecting mentors with local youth-serving and mentoring organizations. Mrs. Taylor is dedicating the rest of her life to save African-American children and is asking churches to link arms and mentor young people in their community.
This year’s conference attracted hundreds of the nation’s leading scholars and clergy who convened to learn, organize, strategize and partner with Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” and SDPC as they launched the To Be Free at Last Movement. The To Be Free At Last Movement is a bold new movement to dismantle our nation’s latest system of racial and social control – the Prison Industrial Complex. Conference workshops included presentations by leading experts from across the country. Topics included:
Activating the Moral Agenda in Public Policy
Tweens, Teens and Faith: Raising a New Generation of Prophets
Preaching to Empower Faithful Action
Combating the Issues of Mass Incarceration
The Power of Arts and Culture as Forms of Resistance and Empowerment
Rev. Frederick Haynes, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church, led a workshop entitled “Back to Black” and spoke about his work to eliminate Pay Day lending institutions in his Dallas, Texas neighborhood and replace them with micro-loan institutions.
Spending a week with hundreds of people of faith who are committed to justice was inspiring and refreshing. For those who think the black church is dead, think again.
To find out more about the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference log onto www.sdpconference.info.