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Scholars and activists host issue area sessions at W.K. Kellogg Foundation America Healing Conference

Monica Maggiano            

Asheville, N.C. –The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s (WKKF) 2013 America Healing Conference kicked into high gear with a day that included 10 concurrent issue-specific sessions, in addition to three plenary sessions. The concurrent sessions, held both in the morning and the afternoon, enabled participants to apply the conference’s theme of “Reclaiming the Narrative” to a variety of timely topics ranging from immigration to food and nutrition.

At a session titled “Immigration Policy Priorities,” leaders from civil rights and advocacy organizations across the country discussed how the narrative surrounding immigration can help inform an equitable immigration policy, and insisted that no person should be treated as a second-class citizen. The panelists explored the current immigration movement, emphasizing that although there seems to be a real window of opportunity now when it comes to immigration policy reform, it is not a given, and activists must work to leverage this momentum.

“We need to be in a forward lean on this,” said Janet Murguía, executive director of the National Council of La Raza. “We need to keep momentum around this moving forward.” 

In another session on housing, education and segregation, Philip Tegeler, executive director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council moderated panelists as they discussed the problem of school segregation, solutions to help tackle the issue and the benefits to children of a diverse school environment. The experts argued in favor of programs that they say contribute to ending cycles of poverty and promoting racial healing.

Damon Hewitt, director of the Education Practice Group at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., warned of the damage caused by, and the missed opportunities associated with school segregation. “Looking at the intersection of racial isolation and extreme poverty, what you are seeing are young people in communities with a duality of experience, simultaneously locked into the community and locked out of opportunity,” Hewitt said.

Attendees also tackled the myth that individual choices lead to unhealthy food behaviors at a panel titled, “Good Food for All: Embracing a Food Continuum for Equity.” The panel, moderated by Kolu Zigbi, program officer at the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, insisted that the root of unhealthy food behaviors lies in structural inequity, and expressed the need for policy solutions. Panelists went on to discuss the challenge of uneven implementation, so activists must inform policymakers to combine policy and grassroots activity to maximize access to healthy food.

Other sessions at the conference included “Accountability for Progress Toward Racial Healing and Equity,” a session on supporting effective narratives with compelling facts and data; “Making the Economic and Business Case for Racial Healing and Equity,” on the link between our nation’s history and the current wealth gap, “Victories in Interrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” on changing the legal system to increase opportunities for children of color, “Bringing Organizations and Communities Forward,” on tools and processes that maximize the effectiveness of community organizations, “Working with Journalists to Change the Narrative,” on engaging journalists to tear down barriers created by structural racism, and “Affirmative Action: Past, Present, and Future,” a session on affirmative action in light of the recent Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

The conference is part of WKKF’s America Healing work that provides support for organizations to address structural bias and facilitate racial healing in communities.
The conference was held at the Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804.  
For more information about America Healing, visit www.AmericaHealing.org
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create the conditions where vulnerable children can realize their full potential in school, work and life. 
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.

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