About The Event

This year’s conference entitled, “Why We Can’t Wait: Mobilize, Inspire, Act!” seeks to motivate attendees to resist discrimination and demand justice. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Why We Can’t Wait” to outline racial segregation in the United States. King said, “Just as lightning makes no sound until it strikes, the Negro Revolution generated quietly. But when it struck, the revealing flash of its power and the impact of its sincerity and fervor displayed a force of a frightening intensity. Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse, and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper. . . There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.” 

As the country begins a new era, we will no longer wait for the dream to be fulfilled. We will no longer wait for change to happen. It is time to use our voice and demand a better nation for all. Join us this year to learn how you can mobilize, inspire, and act with your communities!


Harvard Kennedy School
79 John F. Kennedy St
Cambridge, MA 02138


Friday to Sunday
April 7 to 9, 2017

Keynote Speakers

Loretta Elizabeth Lynch is the first Black female Attorney General in US. history who served as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2015 to succeed Eric Holder.
Frank Leon Roberts is a founder of the #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus movement and is the creator of BlackLivesMatterSyllabus.com, a national community organizing project that provides resources for educators on how to teach BLM in university classroom settings.
Joshua DuBois ran President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in Obama’s first term, wrote the bestselling book, The President’s Devotional, and now runs a social impact agency called Values Partnerships.

Our Mission

The Black Policy Conference is the leading policy driven forum to address the issues affecting Black communities. The conference provides an opportunity for the convergence of the world’ s greatest minds and practitioners with the hope and intent of finding sustainable solutions for issues facing Black communities.

-Enrich the dialogue at Harvard University and beyond surrounding Black issues

-Build a sustainable network among current students, alumni, faculty, and policy practitioners

-Create innovative ideas and share best practices addressing policy issues that affect Africa and the African Diaspora

-Inspire individuals to be engaged in the policymaking process

Help us continue our work at the Black Policy Conference by making a small donation.


To donate click DONATE button, select a fund: “Other”, other fund name: “Black Policy Conference 2017”, follow instructions to process payment. Thank you for your continued support!

Alumni Awards

Michelle Thornhill is the Chief of Staff for Wells Fargo Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion and Strategic Philanthropy.
Eugene Scott is an award winning journalist for CNN Politics, covering Washington, national politics and identity politics.
Vedette R. Gavin is public health practitioner who serves as the Director of Research and Partnerships at the Conservation Law Foundation.

Don't Miss It!

Last year our tickets sold fast, so don’t miss out on this opportunity. Register today! Conference will start in

Conference Schedule

Drawing together hundreds of the world's business, civic and community leaders to learn and create sustainable policies for Black communities.
  • FRIDAY - APRIL 7, 2017

  • SATURDAY - APRIL 8, 2017

  • SUNDAY - APRIL 9, 2017

  • 04:00PM

  • 09:00AM - 10:30AM
    Black communities are disproportionately affected by pollution and by the increasing risks of climate change caused weather disasters. Low income communities of color have historically shouldered an unfairly large share of environmental risks and burdens, which have negatively impacted their health, quality of life, and neighborhood stability. Conversely, environmental improvements and efforts to combat climate change create spillover benefits like green jobs, access to open space, protecting vulnerable homes, and health improvements like reduced asthma. Unfortunately, those most vulnerable to climate and environmental burdens are often those least able to capture the benefits. This panel will: (1) Define environmental justice and climate justice; (2) Identify policies, organizations, and citizen actions that will not only increase sustainability's benefits, but also help ensure their equitable distribution.

  • 09:00AM - 10:30AM
    This panel will focus on the intersection between immigrants from the African diaspora and black liberation movements in the United States. We will explore the sources of social divisions between black Americans who are descended from slaves and first- or second-generation immigrants to the United States. We will also examine the experiences of black immigrants in terms of the challenge of navigating dualities of identity as well as the intersection of anti-black racism and anti-immigrant xenophobia in the United States. Ultimately, our aim is to facilitate a conversation about how black immigrants and African Americans can better unite against anti-black racism in the United States and how African Americans can better engage with black liberation movements across the globe.

  • 10:45AM - 12:15PM
    Modern ideas of American racism and whiteness were fabricated, during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. What are the implications of race and whiteness as historical phenomena today? Why do low-income white people support policies that run counter to their professed values and economic well-being, often to the detriment of low-income communities of color? And what are activists and communities doing to push back against the “slow-moving disasters” of racism and bigotry? This panel will explore the roles of whiteness, the myth of race and the race hierarchy, the idea of “allyship”, and the responsibility of “privilege” in a rapidly fracturing country.

  • 10:45AM - 12:15PM
    Many believe that the election and the appointment of Betsy Devos to the Department of Education prompted a new look into charter schools, school choice, and vouchers. Liberal education analysts have decided these policies spell disaster for the black community. But the debate has already raged and waned in the black community for decades. Could these policies actually help the black community? To what extent should we trust liberal education policy experts with the fate of our children? This panel will critically look at these policies and why they could be helpful to our community. Panelists will talk about the importance of creating schools that work, no matter how they are set up.

  • 01:15PM - 02:45PM
    During the 2016 election, dissatisfaction with both candidates unearthed a lack of choice in electoral politics. Since then, the final election results ignited heightened levels of civic engagement in opposition to Donald Trump. In response, many have inquired about the steps they can take to have an increased impact and create real change at the ballot box. And while there are many appropriate avenues to address this issue, too often young people do not consider putting themselves on the ballot. In an effort to remedy this phenomenon, this workshop will explore and dispel many of the reasons that keep people from running for office and then equip participants with the skills and insights necessary to successfully run for office.

  • 01:15PM - 02:45PM
    The panelists will each discuss their experiences organizing and potential for coalition building across the aforementioned communities, especially in the face of increasing marginalization facing both Muslim and Black communities across the U.S. They will address the following questions: (1) How has being a Muslim impacted your black identity and vice versa? (2) What opportunities for civil rights organizing and coalition building do you see at the intersection of the Black and Muslim communities? (3) Given the rich history of Black Muslims in politics, entrepreneurship and media, how can social change advocates use innovation and visibility to create effective impact? (4) What do you see for the future of Black Muslim organizing?

  • 01:15PM - 02:45PM
    This year has highlighted the flaws in our criminal justice system and its disproportionate impacts on black communities and other people of color. In the face of inaction at the federal level, local organizing for police reform is all the more essential. Join us for a conversation and workshop with Brittany Packnett, Co-founder of Campaign Zero, a member of the President's 21st Century Policing Task Force, and a leading activist in protests across the country. The session will begin with a discussion facilitated by Professor Robert Livingston, focusing on concrete policy solutions and how we can push for their implementation. We will then workshop ways to apply these lessons locally, asking, "What can we do in our communities to move towards racial and criminal justice?" This session will be the culmination of a multi-part study-group, also featuring “Police Perspectives on Police Reform” and “What Cities Can do for Police Reform” that all are welcome to join.

  • 03:30PM - 05:00PM
    On Dec. 20, 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer passionately spoke at the Williams Institutional CME Church in Harlem, New York. She said we “always hear this long sob story: ‘You know it takes time.’ For three hundred years, we've given them time. And I've been tired so long, now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change. We want a change in this society in America because, you see, we can no longer ignore the facts and getting our children to sing, ‘Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed.’ What do we have to hail here?” Fannie Lou Hamer’s words ring true today. It is time to wake up from the dream unfulfilled. This plenary is designed to illustrate the importance and complexities of mobilization, inspiration, and action in a two-party system. We have an obligation and a responsibility to return to our communities, demand action from those in power, and encourage others to do the same. This plenary will give attendees the tools to confidently address problems in their own cities and towns.

  • 5:00PM - 5:30PM

  • 01:30PM - 02:00PM


Harvard Kennedy School
79 John F. Kennedy St
Cambridge, MA 02138