The 15th annual Black Policy Conference was centered around the theme of “Affirming Blackness: Protest, Passion, & Policy”.
After tracking the midterm elections, students at Harvard Kennedy School had a fascinating discussion with Dr. Khalil Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy, on how many candidates used their Blackness not just as a wedge issue, but also as a source of strength. We have seen candidates resist a political marketplace that has historically devalued Black people and affirm through their messaging that being Black has something special to offer. Given that our conference took place in the spring, we hoped to leverage the post-midterm and pre-presidential election timing to take stock of how Black politicians, community activists, professionals and students can affirm their Blackness in a post-Obama world.
Keynote Speakers included Andrew Gillum (Former Mayor of Tallahassee, FL), Lisa Gelobter (Former Chief Digital Service Officer for the Department of Education), Jonathan Jackson (Co-Founder of Blavity), and Alicia Garza (Creator of Black Lives Matter Global Network).
The 14th annual conference explored how prominent figures in the Black community are expanding and elevating the Black narrative to include the various facets of Black identity and better understand how it can be used to influence the creation of policies that lead to better outcomes for our community. Panel and workshop topics included political diversity, the racial wealth gap, housing equity, innovation in healthcare policy, careers in defense and diplomacy, algorithmic justice, and more.
The Black Policy Conference serves as a leading policy-driven forum that brings together the world’s leading minds and practitioners to find sustainable solutions to issues affecting Black communities. By creating a dialogue between participants and policy-makers, students and scholars, practitioners and professionals, the conference seeks to evaluate existing issues and inspire agents of change and progress.
Keynotes: Congressman Cedric Richmond; Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad; Donna Brazile; Revered Cornell Brooks
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!
Keynotes: 83rd U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch; Frank Leon Roberts; Joshua DuBois
Over the past eleven years, the Black Policy Conference has grown into one of higher education’s leading policy-driven venues. Convening some of the greatest minds committed to serving our community, the event aims to develop sustainable solutions to challenges impacting black communities. We strive to bring together scholars, advocates, policymakers, and practitioners to inspire new agents of change.
2016 presented with a critical opportunity to reexamine what constitutes black policy. In the twilight of America’s first black presidency, we found ourselves in a pivotal moment for our democracy and for our community in particular. Questions of social and economic justice have dominated headlines over the year prior and continued to dominate the political conversation in the following era. As competing campaigns presented their respective visions for our future in election year, we seized the opportunity to speak truth to power and hold political actors accountable long after we left the polls.
With this context in mind, the 2016 Black Policy Conference focused on how we can keep our most critical issues at the forefront of our federal, state, and local political agendas through this election cycle and beyond. This summit convened leaders from a variety of sectors to address our biggest challenges across civic engagement, education, criminal justice, healthcare and more.
For 10 years, the Black Policy Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School has provided a forum for discussing issues specifically impacting black and brown communities, in an institutional environment which rarely fosters these conversations. This year’s Black Policy Conference Steering Committee believes that the time has come to partner these critically-needed discussions, with purposeful action.
The purpose of the 2015 Black Policy Conference was to mobilize, strategize, and skill-build. Our hope was that by capacity-building and strategizing together, attendees would be motivated and continue to work towards a more just society once the Conference has ended. That year, many members of the BPC Steering Committee were devastated by the events that took place this summer in Ferguson, Missouri. Many of us joined BPC because we were motivated to take action to prevent such an event from happening again. Due to the salience of this issue, the 2015 BPC explored the policies and institutions that contributed to the loss of a young man’s life in Ferguson and how we can mobilize, strategize, and skill build to prevent it from happening again. Therefore, that year’s keynote speakers and panels focused on the link between the failures of the criminal justice system and other policies impacting the black community. Panel topics covered: The School to Prison Pipeline, Voting/Civic Engagement, Housing Policy, and Police Brutality.