45 Years of Fighting for Social Justice
At the threshold of this year we commemorate the birthday of Dr. King Jr., the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass, and reflect on 50 years since the passing of Dr. King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy.
It is also the year we celebrate the 45th birthday of the Center for Dispute Settlement, an agency formed to address the polarization our community experienced in response to racial tensions. This year also holds great promise for addressing the deep racial and social divisions still evident today.
How is it possible to be hopeful despite the reality that our challenges are greater than ever? During most of the past 50 years institutional racism, economic inequities, fear and resentment of immigrants were not openly expressed as they are today. Fear of being labeled as politically incorrect kept a small minority from expressing their views on these topics; this is no longer the case. The reality is that today we see these divisions much clearer. So how does that lead to a bold claim that we can make real, tangible progress addressing systemic racism and poverty issues?
These clearer divisions have had the effect of galvanizing likeminded people and institutions to band together in ways not previously seen. At the Center for Dispute Settlement we address issues of poverty, racism, education, judicial equity and economic independence. In this work we are privileged to engage with many public, private and governmental agencies. What we are experiencing — and what is so exciting — is not just a willingness to work together but an unwavering commitment to insure there is a collective impact on these social justice issues.
This fall the Center was awarded a grant through the sponsorship of a longtime supporter of our work, Sen. Joe Robach. These seed funds were targeted to provide Restorative Practices in schools; life skills training to first-time job seekers; conflict management training to clients in alternatives to incarceration programs; and other social justice initiatives.
As the seeds were being planted many agencies offered hands to weed the fields to help the seeds grow and flourish insuring a fruitful harvest. We are privileged to work aside our colleagues at RCSD Roc Restorative, Gandhi Institute, Partners in Restorative Initiatives (PiRI),Center for Youth, Pathways to Peace, ABC, MC Probation, Community Place, Catholic Family Center, MC Public Defender, MC Judiciary and others.
These spontaneous collaborations, driven only by firm selfless commitment to making systemic changes, is why we see renewed hope in reaching the other side of Dr. King Jr.’s mountain top. Forged together in singular purpose we celebrate our forbearers and better understand the quote from Sir Isaac Newton: "If we have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
For more information on how to get assisitance or involved with the Center for Dispute Settlement, contact us today!
Frank Liberti is president and CEO of Center for Dispute Settlement
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