Human rights activists from across the South will gather at historic Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, from Dec. 9 to 11 for the Southern Human Rights Organizers' Conference.
The theme of this year's gathering is "Forward Ever, Backwards Never: 20 Years of Advancing a Global Agenda for Southern Human Rights." Participants will discuss critical human rights issues facing people in the U.S. South and global South as well as Islamophobia and resisting the program of President-elect Donald Trump. It's dedicated to the memory of the late mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Lumumba, a human rights attorney who died in 2014.
This year's conference marks a Mississippi homecoming for the biannual event, which first took place 20 years ago at the University of Mississippi Law School in Oxford. Conference coordinator Jaribu Hill, an attorney and founder of the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights, noted the significance of returning to "the state that has a record of having the largest number of reported lynchings in the post-slavery era, the state that continues to be one of the last strong holds of Klan terror, the state that continues to deny masses of its citizens their constitutional right to vote, the state that flies the confederate flag and celebrates its hateful legacy of racial terror and inequality."
"At a time when Black women and men are murdered under the color of law, as the great Medgar Evers said, we cannot let up now!" she said. "At a time when trans peoples are murdered by homophobic hatemongers, we cannot let up now! At a time when thousands of immigrants are targeted for exploitation and deportation, we cannot let up now!"
In addition to plenary sessions on Black power and movement building, the conference will offer strategy sessions on workers rights, environmental justice, building cooperatives, human rights lawyering and more. Among the international participants will be Jesus "Chucho" Garcia, the Venezuelan consul in New Orleans and an expert on Afro-Venezuelans.
The sponsors include national groups like the U.S. Human Rights Network and the National Domestic Workers Alliance as well as regional social justice organizations such as Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Cooperation Jackson, Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP, the Southern region of the National Lawyers Guild, Black Workers for Justice, Project South, Southerners on New Ground, and The Priory of St. Moses the Black.
"We are in a movement moment that has made it plain to us that if we aim to win we must commit to working in solidarity," said conference planning committee member Dr. Yolande M. S. Tomlinson, director of applied education and intersectionality at the Atlanta-based Organization for Human Rights and Democracy. "SHROC offers us this space to come together to build, strategize, reenergize and connect across identities, issues, movements and geopolitical borders."