Fit for a King 2019 started with an inspiring opening plenary panel, featuring powerful organizers representing three generations of movement-building in New Orleans. Doratha “Dodie” Smith-Simmons described her work with as a leader with the New Orleans chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Barbara Major reminded the audience that building movements is collective work and not to be done alone, and Angela Kinlaw made a point to emphasize the interconnectedness of social justice efforts, tying her work for workers’ rights efforts and education justice to the fight for fair housing.
The summit’s breakout sessions focused on climate displacement, eviction, and advancing LGBTQ rights. The “Defending Against Eviction Crisis” breakout featured Councilmember Donna Collins-Lewis of the East Baton Rouge Parish Metropolitan Council; Breonne Dedecker, Program Manager at Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative; and Davida Finger, Professor of Law at Loyola University of New Orleans. The panel presented on new data pertaining to the eviction crisis in New Orleans and its particular impacts on neighborhoods of color.
Simultaneously, Colette Pichon Battle, Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, led attendees through facts and statistics about climate disasters and their impact on housing. Using case studies from Hurricanes Katrina and Maria as well as the BP Oil Drilling Disaster, Battle painted a clear and urgent picture of the problem and what needs to be done to address it. The third breakout session featured Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of GNOFHAC; Amber Kimble, of Louisiana Trans Advocates and Baton Rouge PFLAG; and S. Mandisa Moore-O’Neal, Attorney and Founder of The O’Neal Law Group. These panelists discussed the legal and community-based approaches to protecting the rights of LGBTQ communities.
After three engaging and enlightening sessions on current efforts and the work remaining, GNOFHAC took a moment to recognize individuals who are going above and beyond to contribute to fair housing work through an annual award ceremony. The Award for Courage recognized Cynthia Kilpatrick for her bravery in defending her family’s right to fair housing after she was discriminated against based on the number of children she has. The Fair Housing Hero Award was a new award introduced at this year’s summit and awarded to the Tulane Law School Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic, for their consistent and dedicated work representing clients in fair housing cases. Lastly, the Mondale-Brooke Award for Fair Housing Leadership and Civic Participation was granted to state senator Ed Price, for his dedicated work to pass the statewide security deposit reforms, which went into effect January 1, 2019.
After the awards ceremony, GNOFHAC welcomed the legendary civil rights activist Diane Nash to the stage for an inspirational and empowering keynote address. Nash spoke of her work alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and brought the audience on a journey to understand the strategy behind lunch counter sit-ins and the Freedom Rides. Her words led into the final action session, “You are the Movement” which provided attendees with concrete action steps to take immediately to advance the fair housing movement in Louisiana.
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