Conference looks to further Civil Rights

SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) – It is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and while we’ve come a long way since then, many say there’s still a lot of work to be done. Hundreds of people were in Springfield Thursday to talk about the next step.

It’s been 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. It was just the first major step in what would be a long road to equality and in Springfield hundreds gathered to look for ways to continue the mission.

“The struggle is not in isolation, there are a lot of people involved on a lot of different levels, a lot of different people in the room.  So, I think it’s just a reaffirmation that people are still focused on civil rights,” said Joseph Edwards, with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

The annual fair housing and civil rights conference included smaller groups focused on how far we’ve come and where we’re headed next. Organizers say it’s impossible to talk about moving forward without including housing in the discussion.

“That means that your healthcare is directly related to where you live, where you go to school is directly related to where you live.  That’s why we have segregating school systems today, because we have segregated housing patterns,” said Jamie Williamson, with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

The group, made up of community agencies, lawyers and civil rights advocates, also talked about the importance of education in achieving success.

“What can we do to get this next generation to stay in school, and use their assets in their community to make a big difference,” said Charles Ogletree, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

The conference continues into Friday.

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