*Los Angeles, CA -On Saturday, January 16, 2021, Los Angeles Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted the Empowerment Congress Summit, an annual event designed to improve Los Angeles communities by establishing a “broad-based and diverse constituency made up of community residents, representatives of the Neighborhood Councils and block clubs, social and human service organizations, academic and religious institutions, business interests and individual citizens,” according to the Empowerment Congress website. The objective of the summit “is to support empowering residents and community members with the tools that they need to make an impact in their individual communities.” The Congress is “a unique model for how communities and their elected representatives interact with one another to hold each other mutually accountable.”
This year’s annual summit, “Reimagining Civic Engagement,” was held virtually, due to Covid-19. The event, emceed by radio and television personality Dominique di Prima, opened with sensational musicality from an ensemble, “Quatrosound,” who performed a masterful version of the Hammerstein and Rogers classic “My Favorite Things.”
Congresswoman Karen Bass spoke from her office in Washington D.C. She recounted her traumatic experience at the Capitol Riots.
“I was on the floor listening to the debate and I got up maybe 5 minutes before the insurrection broke out,” she said. “Little did I know, a few minutes later they would storm the very steps where I was on the top of, they would overrun the Capitol Police, break into the building and begin to destroy things.” Representative Bass, however, stressed the urgency of cooperation between elected officials and the communities they serve through programs and initiatives modeled after the Empowerment Congress. “The work of the Empowerment Congress over all these years, has been a model that should be replicated around the country, “said Representative Bass, “honest discourse and civil engagement that reaffirms our commitment to democratic principles.”
Among the highlights of the Summit was a film tribute to Pastor James Lawson, an activist in the civil rights movement, that encapsulated many of his civic achievements. Several speakers participated in the Summit, including Second District Supervisor Holly Mitchell, District Attorney George Gascon, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Council President Nury Martinez, City of Los Angeles General Managers, and community members.
California Governor Gavin Newsome spoke of the importance of the summit and the importance of civic engagement.
“The spirit of this summit and of this year’s theme as it relates to civic engagement – is a spirit that I think unites each and every one of us. A spirit to see the world with a different set of eyes – not just your own perspective, but to have the empathy and the understanding – the compassion, and the respect, for people regardless of their background,” said Governor Newsom. Ashley Lewis and Kwame Cooper, the co-chairs of the Summit, emphasized the importance of summits like the Empowerment Congress.
“For the past 29 years, The Empowerment Congress has been a unique model for how communities and their elected representatives hold each other truly accountable,” said Ashley Lewis. “Our motto is a simple one- Educate, Engage, Empower.” “The Empowerment Congress’ unique model allows us to build a community as a unifying force to which partnerships are built and communities are transformed,” said Kwame Cooper.
The keynote speaker, Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, highlighted the challenges that face Los Angeles, including Covid-19 and his signature cause, homelessness in Los Angeles.
“We share common hopes, and common dreams and common aspirations, “said Mark Ridley-Thomas, in a very hopeful, positive, tone. “We share common values that bind us together. Our diversity is married to our commonality. We call it community.” Homelessness continues to be a growing national problem, and the councilmember is aggressively tackling the problem. “There’s too many men, women and even children living on our streets,” said Councilmember Ridley-Thomas. “It’s not hard to dread what tomorrow may look like. But our tomorrow must involve doubling down. On these issues and more.” The councilmember spotlighted his civic priorities. “There are three I want to call your attention to, one is Covid-19, two is racial equity and three, homelessness. “
The Summit also had breakout sessions that addressed Los Angeles problems, including a break out session on homelessness, “Journeys: Moving from a Street to a Home.”
For more information on The Empowerment Congress and to view the entire webcast, visit www.empowermentcongress.org.