On Saturday, June 10, 2023, the Empowerment Congress joined event partners KBLA Talk 1580, The Gathering Spot LA, The Institute for Nonviolence in LA and Days of Dialogue to welcome a crowd of more than 100 guests, including several KBLA Talk 1580 listeners who gained special entry through an on-air contest, to a special Juneteenth Dialogue and Celebration under the theme State of the Freed. Award-winning broadcaster and author, Tavis Smiley, served as emcee of the program, which included remarks from EC founder, Dr. Mark Ridley-Thomas, as well as an update on the State of the Empowerment Congress, presented by EC Leadership Council members Dr. Shani Byard and Bishop Byron L. Smith, Sr.
Community members, labor leaders, elected officials and more were present to hear about local and statewide reparations work, including the history of Palm Springs’ Section 14 razing and fires in the 1950s and 1960s, which is at the core of the currently active reparations claims in that town. Civil rights attorney Areva Martin, Esq. spoke about her work with the families who were impacted by the displacement strategies implemented by the Palm Springs government, while Senator Steven Bradford provided insights into the challenges and opportunities for the California Reparations Task Force, a nine member body to which he was appointed by a directive of Assembly Bill 3121. The keynote conversation was moderated by activist, producer and host Dominique Di Prima, who hosts KBLA Talk 1580’s morning commute show, First Things First with Dominique Di Prima, and was broadcast live to a virtual audience.
Following the keynote conversation, INVLA and Days of Dialogue co-founder, Avis Ridley-Thomas, introduced the dialogue topic Facing Racism and Bigotry in Los Angeles, which was inspired by the leak of an audio recording documenting racist remarks made by City Council members and an established labor union leader in October 2021. The October 2022 leak exposed an insidious agenda to increase political power for the leaders heard on the recording, at the expense of other communities. All participants were invited to share their perspectives on numerous questions presented in a Dialogue Guide, developed by INVLA, in a conversation directed by trained facilitators from Days of Dialogue.
The event concluded with lunch and entertainment provided by Upward Mobility.