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Selma at 50: Still Marching

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April 24-25, 2015

For more than 150 years, Chicago Theological Seminary has worked to make our faith relevant in ways that help transform society toward greater justice. Throughout our history, CTS faculty and students have been on the front line of many progressive movements, including the American Civil Rights struggle. CTS was involved in various activities and efforts to advance the cause of civil rights and in 1957, the seminary became the first in America to award the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree for his activism in the civil rights movement. In 1965, CTS president Howard Schomer, along with CTS faculty and students including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, marched alongside Dr. King in Selma, Alabama. President Schomer, the students, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dr. King, and several other march leaders wore leis sent by prominent CTS alumnus Kahu Abraham Akaka (B.D. 1943), who served as pastor of the historic Kawaiaha’o Church (United Church of Christ) in Hawai’i from 1957 to 1984. The act of the march leaders wearing the lei is significant: in Hawaiian culture, white leis are not only adornment, but also symbols of peace and unity among warring tribes. To be held on the CTS campus, “Selma at 50: Still Marching” will trace a thread through the legacy of civil rights activism to emerging contemporary activist movements focused on issues at the intersection of public theology, grassroots organizing, and serious scholarship. Participants will examine critical social issues (e.g. the systemic causes of oppression and violence, the prison industrial complex, immigration reform, living wage issues, militarized policing, etc.) and their effects on human society, and strategize on action that will inspire and engage the next generation of leaders. The conference will include 2 keynote addresses, 2 themed-based panel discussions, and training as a tool for organizing in our communities. The training will be followed by topic-based working sessions pushing beyond analysis and digging deeper to create applicable solutions to the issues. Inclusive, structured dialogues will expand upon and clarify definitions of “civil rights” in our current climate, and unstructured social time will allow people to process and reflect on what they’ve heard and experienced during the event.

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