The Empowerment Congress Hosts Conversations Centered on Resilience

Founded in 1992 to encourage constituent engagement in the governmental decision-making process, the Empowerment Congress is centered around the values of intentional civility, reciprocal accountability, and participatory democracy. Despite these turbulent times, the Empowerment Congress carries on its mission to educate, engage, and empower through virtual forums.

Two recent installments of these virtual gatherings, ArtScape LA: Transformation Beyond Crisis and Uprising 2020: What’s Next?, provided opportunities for panelists and community members to discuss moving forward through the multilayered crises society is facing.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, founder of the Empowerment Congress and longstanding advocate for the arts and the creative economy, provided welcome remarks for the ArtScape LA discussion.

“In this difficult time the world is facing, it is more imperative not to forget about the sustainability of the arts and how beneficial they are to our respective communities. They humanize our respective communities—in other words, the arts matter,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaking to how communities can emerge stronger and more resilient harnessing the critical component of art in the healing of our society.

“I’m proud of the fact that the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture has championed the Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative for this very purpose. The conversation of equity didn’t just start three months ago. This initiative has led to a placement of creative strategists within key County departments to help address complex social challenges,” highlighted Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Together, we can develop thoughtful ways to sustain artists and artist organizations that do some of the most critical work in our communities.”

Panelists who joined the ArtScape LA discussion include the Empowerment Congress’ Arts and Culture Committee Co-Chairs Marie Kellier and Trevor Davis, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture Executive Director Kristin Sakoda, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs General Manager Danielle Brazell, and LACDAC Director of Grants and Professional Development Anji Gaspar-Milanovic.

The panelist discussion touched upon the current state of the arts sector, resources for artists and arts organizations, advocacy opportunities, and collaboration strategies. The panelists shared resiliency strategies that were particularly mindful of COVID-19 public health concerns. A notable point of the discussion surrounded the ways artists are supported to facilitate difficult dialogues and inspire social imagination during this pivotal moment for evoking widespread social change.

The theme of resilience, healing, and equity were carried through the second virtual Empowerment Congress forum. Uprising 2020: What’s Next? offered a debriefing opportunity on the topics of local and nationwide police reform and protests.

In opening the conversation, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas quoted an excerpt from Professor Cornel West’s 1993 book Race Matters: “To engage in a serious discussion about race in America, we must begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American society—flaws rooted in historic inequalities and longstanding cultural stereotypes. How we set up the terms for discussing racial issues shapes our perception and response to these issues.”

“You will have the opportunity to translate what you have learned into actions so that you can, beyond the front lines, be change agents in your personal and professional pursuits in your own communities,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, reminding discussion listeners and participants that this conversation should serve as the catalyst to personal action beyond the panel discussion.

The featured panelists in this discussion included the Los Angeles City Civil and Human Rights Department Executive Director Capri Maddox, Crossroads Equity & Justice Institute Founding Director Derric J. Johnson, and Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission Executive Director Robin Toma.

Panelists discussed their respective institutions they represent and how the virtual attendees can support their efforts toward equity and justice. Other topics include policing and misconduct, public safety, providing equitable socioeconomic opportunities, creating accountability for acts of hate, the state of Los Angeles following widespread protests, and much more.

Uprising 2020: What's Next?

Uprising 2020: What's Next?

Posted by Empowerment Congress on Monday, July 13, 2020

The online forums hosted by the Empowerment Congress are a beacon of hope in guiding communities through challenging times by continuing the work of dismantling systemic racism and pursuing justice and equity. These discussions serve as a reminder of the power of conversation and how progress can still be made even under isolating circumstances. To learn more about the Empowerment Congress and its upcoming events, please visit