In the aftermath of the 1967 urban ‘riots’, President Lyndon B. Johnson established the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission after its chair, Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. of Illinois. The 11-member commission examined the conditions of the cities that led to the turmoil and made recommendations addressing the underlying causes. The Commission’s report, released on February 29, 1968, marks a pivotal moment in the changing dynamics of U.S. cities and of critical analysis of the role of race as a division in America.
Keynote speaker Dr. Fred Harris is an original member of the Kerner Commission – and the last surviving member. Elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Oklahoma in 1964, Senator Harris quickly became one of the most active members of the senate and was deeply concerned about the plight of economically deprived inner-city African Americans, recognizing that unequal treatment of urban neighborhoods was one of the determining factors in the urban unrests of the 1960s.
A panel discussion followed Dr. Harris’ keynote. Noted historian and Chicago civil rights activist Timuel Black was joined by former mayor of Berkeley and human rights activist Eugene “Gus” Newport and former vice president of the W K Kellogg Foundation, Dr. Gail Christopher. Also included on the panel were local activists and community builders: José Lopez of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Willie J.R. Fleming of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, and Anthony Lowery of the Safer Foundation.
Thank you to CAN TV for filming this event.