The 22nd annual Empowerment Congress Summit is around the corner, and it promises to be an exciting event for anyone interested in civic participation and community activism.
This year’s summit, hosted by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and sponsored by the Empowerment Congress, will focus on the legacies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died December 2013.
Both King and Mandela were enormously influential in the struggle to establish equal rights for all human beings. Mandela studied the U.S. civil rights movement closely, and he saw the experience of African-Americans in the U.S. as an example for the similar struggle in South Africa. In the years following the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement became a formative cause for generations of U.S. citizens and activists.
At the summit’s plenary session, guest speakers who have taken the mantle of leadership and made a difference in the health and well-being of Los Angeles residents are scheduled to speak. They include Compton Mayor Aja Brown; Lynwood Mayor Aide Castro, USC President C. L. Max Nikias, attorney and social justice advocate Sandra Fluke, surgeon, medical researcher, businessman and philanthropist Patrick Soon-Shiong, Robert Ross, CEO of the California Endowment, Irma Muñoz, founder of the environmental non-profit environmental justice group Mujeres de la Tierra and Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU ULTCW – the United Long Term Care Workers’ Union.
In addition, there will be eight workshops led by distinguished panels of experts, focusing on a variety of issues including the sex trafficking of minors, an update on the Affordable Care Act and its impact, the future of the LAX-Metro airport connector, educating and empowering men and boys of color and a discussion led by a youth summit group on sex, drugs and the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.
Leading up to the summit, for the third consecutive year, leaders from Birmingham, Alabama; Compton, California; Doña Ana, New Mexico; East Los Angeles, California; Louisville, Kentucky; Houston, Texas and Stockton, California will participate in the Empowerment Congress Leadership Institute (ECLI) funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in the County of Los Angeles.
On its way to becoming a national model, the ECLI, which runs from January 13 through January 18, 2014, is comprised of elected officials and their staff members, nonprofit agency representatives, community leaders and businesses professionals. These leaders attend workshops and discussions to learn about civic and community engagement tools, resources and techniques that can then be used when they return to their own communities.
“This year’s summit will bring together people with a variety of backgrounds and interests,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “But what everyone has in common is the desire to make their communities better. Whether it is environmental justice, ending violence against girls and women, helping men and young boys of color get ahead in life or helping the homeless and mentally ill, everyone at the Empowerment Congress Summit recognizes that we are all in this together. That is why we honor –and seek to build on — the legacies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.”
The Empowerment Congress is widely regarded as the forerunner to the Los Angeles neighborhood council movement. Founded by then Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, its mission is to educate and engage the public, teaching Los Angeles-area residents how best to access and influence government.
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