School teachers, politicians, entertainers and more came out to talk about ways to better race relations during a day-long summit put on by The Atlantic Magazine on Thursday, Sep. 15, at the Hudson Loft in Downtown Los Angeles.
The Atlantic held their first Race and Justice summit in Washington, D.C. in November of 2015 and chose Los Angeles as the second location because of the uniqueness of the racial demographics here. The panelists discussed a range of issues from the effects of policing in Black and Brown neighborhoods to the hardships of homosexuality in the Korean community.
“The reason Los Angeles felt so meaningful is because it’s such a microcosm of the country with majority people of color living here,” said Margaret Low, president of the events division of The Atlantic Magazine. “Issues of race, identity, inequality and social justice are some of the most consequential issues that we can discuss today. One hopes to provoke deep thought and people talking to each other to understand how to view the world in new and productive ways.”
The summit was set up to where there was an audience and a stage directly in front where panelists came up for 15 to 30 minutes to answer questions about issues that they work heavily in. There were lieutenants, screenwriters, activists and many more who gave insight to the difficulties of their careers and ways that they can improve how society sees race.
“I loved the variety of speakers who were presented today. Everything from artists to police officers to social justice pioneers. That variety made for interesting discussion and it was a lot of food for thought,” said Wendy Calhoun, panelist and director of “Left Behind”, which is a film about what happens to children whose mothers are incarcerated. “There was a high level of empathy in the room as well. It wasn’t a tense or dramatic mood, there wasn’t any conflict. Just people trying to hear each other and come together.”
The day started with a discussion on who California is, which was held by Ezra Edelman, the filmmaker of “O.J.: Made in America” and Alex Wagner, the senior editor at the Atlantic. It then led to topics of living on skid row and poetry, including one of a Guatemalan teen, Vanessa Tahay, speaking powerfully on her immigration. After lunch, discussions included incarceration and the growing number of women of color being incarcerated, and a panel of community activists from Watts. The closing topics were about homosexuality and race along with ways that Hollywood plays a role in how society views race.
“There were a lot of panelists who appeared and talked about their work who I had never heard of before,” said Angie Jean-Marie, 27. “The conversation about race and social justice can often be inclusive so it was really nice to see this event be expanding about the conversation and to hear some interesting, controversial new voices on the subject matter.”
“It’s important for us to talk about these narratives and about what works and what doesn’t work. It was a good way to bring people into the fold instead of social justice people only talking to social justice people,” Jena-Marie continued.
Some of the people who also joined the discussion were Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Jason George, Community Organizer Andre “Lowdown” Christian and Vice President of Policy at Community Coalition Karren Lane.
The Atlantic Magazine plans to continue and expand the discussion to different cities to see how each city is working towards having better race relations and justice. For more information about how you can get involved visit www.theatlantic.com.