2009 Conference

Human Rights Day 2009 In Review

Where Do We Go From Here? -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten... America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness—justice."

– Dr. Martin Luther King
Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967

Where Do We Go From Here?

With its theme inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King's still poignant question, "Where do we go from here?", Minnesota's 26th Annual Human Rights Day Conference offered a wide range of presentations on some of today's most important human rights issues, from housing discrimination to racial profiling, from bias crimes to immigration.

The conference, held Friday, Dec. 4 at Saint Paul RiverCentre, featured a keynote address by Dr. Frank Wu. Currently a law professor at Howard University, Dr. Wu is the author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, and co-author of . He was introduced by Angela Davis, WCCO-TV news anchor, and master of ceremonies for the conference.

Dr. WuIn his keynote address, Dr. Wu called upon those who believe in "the great American dream" of hope and opportunity to persevere, even while recognizing that the struggle for civil rights is a journey that will never be completed. "Democracy is not something that we finish, that we have as a product that we place on the shelf and admire. Democracy is compelling to us exactly because it never ends, it's never over," Dr. Wu said. "Maybe diversity is just the same -- it's a process, not an outcome... We rest our weary feet every time, but we prepare then to march again."

Commissioner Velma Korbel welcomed conference attendees in the morning, elaborating on the conference theme and reminding the audience of King's challenge to remain committed and determined in the quest for justice. "We know we've made progress... but we are nowhere near the finish line," Korbel observed.

The Commissioner updated attendees on some of the Department of Human Rights' achievements during 2009, including the adoption of new technology to make the department more accessible, with further enhancements planned for spring 2010. She also introduced Louisa Hext, Vice President of the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions and a member of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission. The conference was sponsored by the Department of Human Rights in partnership with the League.

The conference also marked the introduction of the winners of the 4th Annual Human Rights Day poster contest for students in grades K-12 from around the state. This year, students were challenged to create a poster with their interpretation of the "Where Do We Go From Here?" conference theme.

Commissioner Korbel presented awards to the winners in a ceremony following the keynote address, and conference attendees received a 2010 Calendar on CD-ROM featuring the prize-winning artwork. The contest was sponsored by the Human Rights Collaborative, which includes Advocates for Human Rights; the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions; Advocating Change Together (ACT); the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center; Tolerance Minnesota; and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

Throughout the day, two dozen conference workshops highlighted the latest trends, emerging issues, best practices and key decisions shaping the future of human rights. The afternoon schedule featured a question-and-answer session with Dr. Wu, followed by a popular book-signing event.

The conference received financial assistance from sponsors Best Buy, Mayo Clinic, and Thompson-Reuters.