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25th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit

*Los Angeles – Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and The Empowerment Congress presented the 25th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit-Lessons Learned: 25Years of Empowerment and Leadership.

This enormous and significant event was held on Saturday, January 14, 2017, on the campus of University of Southern California, Bovard Auditorium.

Empowerment Congress Signage: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and The Empowerment Congress: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The Empowerment Congress is a distinctive national model of civic engagement built on the core principles: participatory democracy, reciprocal accountability and intentional civility.

A capacity crowd gathered at Bovard Auditorium for an afternoon of engaging workshops from various standing committees of The Empowerment Congress.

There was also a Youth Summit for high school-aged students entitled “Unlearning Learned Bias.” Youth were able to learn how to define and creativity combat implicit bias in their everyday lives. The youth were also encouraged to understand the pervasive effects of implicit bias in the realm of race, gender, sexuality, education, law enforcement, the court system, and healthcare. Participants used hands-on tools to promote the unlearning of learned biases, through the creation of visual and performance art.

The day began for everyone in the morning with a continental breakfast. Saxophonist Cal Bennett regaled the arriving guest being seated in the Bovard Auditorium with his soulful sounds. Gerald C. Rivers paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by reciting his “I Have A Dream” speech that was spot on. If you closed your eyes, you would have sworn you were hearing Dr. King himself.

Gerald C. Rivers: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Empowerment Congress Summit Co-Chairs, Gloria Davis and Trevor Davis welcomed the crowd and gave an overview of the day’s program.

A distinctive and diverse group from the education, political and entertainment arena applauded, congratulated and saluted Mark Ridley-Thomas for his vision and leadership of The Empowerment Congress. The dignitaries included C. L. Max Nikias, President, University of Southern California, Xavier Becerra, United States Congress, 34th District, Nanette Diaz Barragan, United States Congress, 44th District, Keith Carson, Alameda County Supervisor, 5th District-President California States Association of Counties, Sheila Kuehl, Chair Pro Tem, Los Angeles County Supervisor, 3rd District, Janice Hahn, Los Angeles County Supervisor, 4th District, and Thomas Steyer, President, NextGen Climate. Actor Glynn Turman was a surprise special guest to laud praise on Mark Ridley-Thomas and Empowerment Congress. He also encouraged the crowd to “keep their heads up, shoulders straight and keep on keeping on as we are face with lots of uncertainty in the future.”

C. L. Max Nikias, President of University of California: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Glynn Turman: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The Robey Theatre Company was also an active participant in this milestone occasion. They presented an original theater production titled “Lessons Learned,” showcasing the humble beginning of The Empowerment Congress.

The Robey Theatre Company: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Empowerment Congress Founder, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas closed out the morning session with an inspiring, uplifting message. He stated “the journey continues, it’s movement time again, time to rev up the engines as we get ready to move full steam ahead to address the issues that continue to be of concern of Los Angeles residents: human trafficking, homelessness, voting rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights, environmental justice and immigration to name a few.” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas empowered the crowd as he was joined onstage by members of The Robey Theater Company, while the Empowerment Congress Anthem “Take My Hand” was played to the delight of the joyful crowd.

Attendees had a choice of ten different workshops to attend. I participated in the workshop “Equity in Education-Leaders Explore Solutions from Diverse Perspectives.” This informative panel featured welcome remarks and program overview by Dr. Shani Byard; Owner/Instructor, Message Media Education, Education Committee Co-Chair. Earl Edwards, Ph. D Student, UCLA Urban Schooling, Education Committee member presented audience engagement activities using www.slido.com #ECEDU.

Dr. Shani Byard, Dr. Tyrone C. Howard, Mr. Darin Brawley, Dr. Debra Duardo and Dr. Joshua Arnold: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Dr. Tyrone C. Howard, Professor, UCLA, Founder/Director, Black Male Institute served as Moderator of the panel discussion with local leaders in education, featuring Dr. Joshua Arnold, Superintendent, Culver City Unified School District, and Mr. Darin Brawley, Superintendent, Compton Unified School District, and Dr. Debra Duardo, Superintendent, Los Angeles County Office of Education. Dr. George McKenna, LAUSD School Board Member was also present to contribute to the dialogue.

Dr. George McKenna: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

This marvelous panel focused and discussed pertinent school issues that are impacting schools, students and families. I’m hopeful that the information discussed during this panel will be available to all interested stakeholders. Contact the Education Committee at info@empowermentcongress.org or call (213)343-3247. Perhaps you like to be engage through Social Media. #ECSUMMIT25 Facebook.com/EmpowermentCongress or Twitter @EmpowerCongress.

The 25th Annual Empowerment Summit concluded with an engaging, entertaining luncheon program. The crowd and I were thoroughly entertained by the sounds of the Upward Mobility Band playing several sets of old school cover tunes for the crowd.

Upward Mobility Band: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

LA Carnaval presented some high energy, participatory engaging, contagious Caribbean dance moves. They also presented a small sample of Carnaval floats one will find in the Caribbean next month, February during Carnaval season.

LA CARNAVAL Dancers: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

LA CARNAVAL Float: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

LA CARNAVAL Float: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

LA CARNAVAL: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

West Hollywood Poet Laureate 2016, Linda Ravenswood recited an original poem entitled “Poetry is a Shape Shifter. Ms. Ravenswood is a member of the Melrose Poetry Bureau.

Linda Ravenswood: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The 25th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit concluded with the crowd dancing throughout the grounds of the campus to the wonderful soulful sounds of the Upward Mobility Band, an appropriately named band for the occasion.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: liltampared@netzero.net


liltampared@netzero.net :Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer.