International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies
2015 IAOHRA CONFERENCE
The Officers of IAOHRA are elected at the annual meeting and shall serve a term of two years beginning with the adjournment of the annual meeting at which they have been elected and until their respective successors are elected and qualified.
IAOHRA 2015 CONFERENCE OVERVIEW
The theme of the IAOHRA 2015 Conference was “Civil Rights and the Vote: Yesterday and Today”
During the 2015 International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies conference in Alabama, PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau developed a travelogue about the discoveries she and her colleagues made.
Those thoughts seemed even more poignant for this Election Day.
Among the hosts for this trip was Birmingham Mayor William Bell, who co-chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ My Brother’s Keeper initiative, along with Mayor Michael A. Nutter.Bell also chairs the U.S. Coalition of Cities Against Racism for the conference.
Those gathered heard from people such as former U.S. Attorney G. Douglas Jones,who led the cold case prosecution of former Ku Klux Klansman, some 40 years after their infamous bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and retired federal judge U.W.
Clemon, who handled school desegregation cases throughout North Alabama, including the vaunted University of Alabama’s football program in 1969. He also was one of two African Americans elected to the Alabama Senate post-Reconstruction, in 1974.
“For the past 150 years, states, mostly southern, have come up with schemes to overcome the 15th Amendment,” Clemon said.
“That’s why we marched. That’s why the marching hasn’t stopped.
“It’s about the right to meaningfully participate in the American Democracy. The crown jewel in any nation is the right to vote.”
His words blended in with those of iconic and hidden heroes of the movement, from the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian to youth activists-turned-marchers who today are keepers of the flame, such as Joanne Bland, who served as a tour guide during the conference.
The presentations were seminal for attendees such as Akia Haynes, deputy director and general counsel for the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.
“Reopening the case of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the conviction in 2001 was one of the reasons I went to law school,” Haynes said. “If this doesn’t change you, if you don’t feel something, then you’re in the wrong line of work.”
In addition to the speakers, there were a host of workshops and presentations, such as the session Landau moderated on community-police relations. For many of the participants, the entire IAOHRA conference was a powerful experience.
“I’ve gone to corners of my mind that I’ve never been to before,” said Cheryl Sharp, deputy director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
And it was deeply impactful for more than just the African American attendees.