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Niagara University holding conference on racial and social justice

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Thu, Mar 24th 2016 01:25 pm

Niagara University will host the "Fostering Racial and Social Justice Conference" on its campus April 15-16.

Among the 100 registrants for the two-day event are representatives from more than a dozen colleges and universities, as well as numerous community organizations, government officials and business leaders.

"The remarkable collaborative efforts that have taken place at Niagara to develop this conference - especially among students and faculty - reinforce the fact that enhancing the inclusivity of our campus environment is of critical importance to all of us," said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. "In this 'Year of Mercy,' Pope Francis has called upon God's people to be builders of bridges. This conference reflects Niagara's mission to build bridges of dialogue on diversity and social justice, to do so as St. Vincent reminds us by the rays of charity."

The conference's keynote speaker is Dr. Martha Biondi, chair of the department of African-American studies and professor of African-American studies and history at Northwestern University. Biondi is the author of "The Black Revolution on Campus," which is described by its publisher as the definitive account of an extraordinary but forgotten chapter of the black freedom struggle at colleges and universities in the 1960s and 1970s.

Among the presenters will be U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott, a 1971 graduate and trustee of Niagara University. Scott was the first African-American to preside over the federal court bench in the Western District of New York, among many other notable achievements.

A full schedule of presentations and discussions, including on-campus locations, will be announced by the end of March.

According to organizers, the goals of the conference include addressing local and national issues of race in higher education; discussing the role of colleges and universities in addressing racial justice in surrounding communities; investigating processes of empowering students as mentors and leaders; strengthening alliances among on- and off-campus organizations that address social justice issues; and serving as a springboard for the establishment of effective programming to address racial justice issues in Western New York. 

"After deeply analyzing student movements in the 1960s and early 1970s, I realized how important college students were to the Civil Rights Movement. It was students who organized rallies and created groups to deal with issues pertaining to the Vietnam War and race in America," said NU senior Nataisia Johnson, founder of the university's Black Student Union. "Our hope is to build a network of socially conscious, student-led college organizations."

Details and registration forms are located at www.niagara.edu/conference. Questions may be addressed to Dr. David Reilly, director of international studies and chair of the political science department at Niagara, at [email protected].

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