November 29, 2023

On May 2nd and 3rd Professor John Bracey traveled to the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University to participate in the Second Summit for Civil Rights. The gathering featured many of the nation’s leading politicians, trade unionists, and scholars active in and/or students of the struggle to end racial oppression. Professor Bracey was accompanied by Sophie Mollins his research assistant and Alex Horton, a doctoral student with a serious interest in Black politics and the modern Civil Rights Movement.

The  jam-packed two day program included politicians James Clyburn (South Carolina) Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Congresspersons Bonnie Watson Coleman (New Jersey) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas). Former Congressman Keith Ellison, now the Attorney General of Minnesota, delivered one of the keynote addresses. The Civil Rights community was represented by such notables as Theodore “Ted” Shaw who worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (the Inc. Fund) for 26 years, several as Director-Counsel and President, and on the 2008 Obama Transition Team as team leader for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department;  Sherrilyn Ifill current President of the Inc .Fund; John Brittain, Chief Counsel, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Lisa Rice, President of the National Fair Housing Alliance and Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP.

Prominent labor leaders included Clayola  Brown, President of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute and Vice-President of Workers United SEIU; Rebecca “Becky” Pringle, Vice-President of the National Education Association and William Spriggs, Chief Economist, AFL-CIO.

Among the distinguished scholars of racial injustice were Sheryll Cashin, Bruce D.Haynes, Douglas Massey, Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Myron Orfield.

Sophie and Alex had the opportunity to engage in an extended conversation with Becky Pringle. Professor Bracey while congratulating Vice President Pringle on her stirring keynote address mentioned that two of his students were in attendance.  She was eager to meet them and urged them to join the ranks of  educators committed to both learning and to building a better world.

Professor Bracey’s participation was at the request of Ted Shaw and of Mike Kruglik. Kruglik was Bracey’s classmate at both Roosevelt and Northwestern universities and currently is the Board President of Building One America a community action group based in Chicago.Kruglik has worked closely with Barack Obama during Obama’s years as a community organizer. Kruglick’s son served as a speech writer during Obama’s presidency. The Summit afforded Professor Bracey his first appearance on a panel on with his daughter Kali Bracey. Kali served as a senior counsel in the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and two years as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division in the Department of Justice during  Obama’s second term. Kali casually mentioned during her remarks that her recent efforts to fight voter suppression efforts in the state of Georgia included representing Stacey Abrams. Both Kali and Stacey Abrams are graduates of Spelman College with overlapping years in attendance. The Bracey family father-daughter dialog about the struggle for racial justice across two generations was well received.

On the return trip, the UMass delegation crossed paths at Newark Penn Station with Trish Loveland and members of her family on their way to a “Cher” concert. The Afro-Am Department is everywhere.