In October 2019, we covened in historic Montgomery to examine the state of social justice in the 21st century where one woman’s resistance to injustice sparked the civil rights movement.
In the story about our conference, Virgina Myers wrote, "Speaker after speaker at the AFT Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Conference called on AFT members, leaders and allies to take action—from the steps of the Alabama state Capitol building, from the conference stage and from the panel discussion tables—and they responded. Surrounded by Montgomery, Ala.’s rich history of civil rights, they pledged to persist in the fight against racism, discrimination and exclusion, and for equity, justice and democracy—as the conference title announced, “Fighting for a Better Life and a Voice at Work and in Our Democracy in the Not-So-New Jane and Jim Crow Era.”
She continued: "Conference participants both gathered this sort of new information and embraced historical context, visiting nearby local sites—including the place where Rosa Parks boarded the bus and the church where King preached—that enriched subsequent conversations. They also drilled down on solutions to current challenges: In a panel about healthcare inequities, they talked about contract language to address discrimination against patients of color and women. Others listened to LGBTQ college students who advised educators about how to be more supportive of them—by using preferred pronouns and names, for example, and providing safe spaces to talk. There were workshops on campaign strategies to win funding for public schools and services, how to protect reproductive rights, how to protect undocumented families, and how to ensure the census does not shut people out of the services they need.
By the end of the conference, participants were making plans to bring home what they had learned, recharged and ready to fight. 'We have led the way so many times,' said Weingarten. 'We can move anger to aspiration, and fear to hope, because we are and have always been the change agents, the movement builders and the fighters for a better life.'