Pitt conference marks Civil Rights Act’s 50th anniversary

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One week after a federal judge struck down Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act, ensuring the civil liberties of its gay and lesbian citizens, the University of Pittsburgh will revisit another civil rights moment in history.

Pitt will be hosting the 13th annual Social Equity Leadership Conference today through Friday. This year it is titled “The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Assessing Social Equity and Civil Rights in the Light of Growing Income Inequality.”

The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. It also ended the unequal application of voter registration requirements. Now, Pitt will explore the landmark law with a look into the future and how it applies to other issues of social disparity.

“As the host this year, it’s pretty hard not to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act,” said David Miller, a Pitt professor of public policy and co-chair of the conference. “We look forward to juxtaposing issues of social equity with a changing economic environment and issues of income and equality.”

The conference is organized by the National Academy of Public Administration, a nonprofit chartered by Congress to help government leaders build efficient and transparent organizations.

Keynote speaker E.J. Dionne Jr., a political columnist for The Washington Post, will give a speech titled “Is Our Political System Making Inequality Worse?” Mr. Dionne’s lecture is free and open to the public, and will conclude with a reception.

Other speakers include Lia Epperson, associate professor of law and director of the doctor of juridical science program at American University’s Washington College of Law, and Ethel Williams, director of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Public Administration.

The opening session, “What Role Cities, Universities, and Media Play in Achieving Social Equity: Reflections from Pittsburgh,” will be moderated by Daria Crawley of Robert Morris University. Panelists include John Keeler, dean of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; Dan Simpson, an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a former U.S. ambassador; and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

On Thursday at 9:30 a.m., the panel “Pittsburgh’s Role (Past, Present, and Future) in Pursuit of Civil Rights” will be moderated by former Pittsburgh Councilman Sala Udin and conference co-chair Leon Haley, professor emeritus at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Also, graduate students and faculty members from universities across the nation will be participating at the conference, delivering speeches about their research findings and contributing to discussions.

The conference costs $150 for professionals, $50 for graduate students and $35 for undergraduates. To register, visit www.selc.gspia.pitt.edu.

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