TSD Memphis

Sun04202014

Greater Metro

People’s Conference provides venue to counter racism

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The People's Conference on Race & Equality was envisioned as "a place where people could take constructive action against racism" and about 1,000 people showed up for the cause.

The event unfolded at the Fairgrounds, with attendees undaunted by the wet conditions. It was organized by Memphis United, a collaborative of groups and individuals.

Jacob Flowers of the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center said the event went as well as it could given the day's conditions.

"It hasn't been the left of the city, it hasn't been the activists. It's been the community...mother's, daughters, families," he said.

"When hate enters your city, the community has to figure out what the response is going to be to that," said Flowers. "This response is one that says, 'we are not going to ignore you (the KKK) coming into our town ...we are also not going to buy into your tactics of violence, hate.'"

We can't pretend, said Flowers, that racism is only present in Memphis when the Klan comes around.

"This isn't the end for us (the collaborative). We've got a follow-up meeting April 12 at 5:30 p.m. at First Congregational church."

Sammy Bowen, 49, and his wife, Deborah, brought their two sons (3 and 5) to the Peace Conference.

"I wanted them to get out and interact with people, all kinds of people, and let them know there is a whole lot of good going on besides the bad they see," said Bowen.

He gave no thought to going downtown to observe and/or protest the Klan rally that triggered the conference.

"This is more important," said Bowen.

"Although you have to stand up for your people, and you do have to do that, people generally have a lot in common," he said.

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