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Race-Equity Advocates and Organizations Partner to Bring First Civil Rights Conference to Jacksonville

July 27, 2022


The first-of-its-kind conference will inspire and propel a more equitable community

Jacksonville, Fla. (July 27, 2022) – LIFE and United Way of Northeast Florida — in partnership with local race equity leaders, advocates and organizations — proudly announce the inaugural Jacksonville Civil Rights Conference. This event is designed to educate and facilitate conversations on civil rights movements in order to provide inspiration and the tools to make Jacksonville a more equitable community.

This first-of-its-kind conference will take place Aug. 25-27, 2022, at the Southbank Marriott in Downtown Jacksonville. Coinciding with the 62nd anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday, the conference will feature a dynamic list of national and local speakers, including:

  • Charlie Cobb – journalist, professor, and former activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
  • Johnetta Betsch Cole – president emerita, Spelman College and Bennett College.
  • The Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson – American academic, author, ordained minister, and radio host.
  • Freeman Hrabowski III – president, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
  • Rodney L. Hurst – author, Civil Rights activist and Black historian.
  • The Rev. Christopher McKee Jr. – senior pastor of The First Baptist Church of Oakland.
  • Chevara Orrin – diversity, equity and inclusion strategist, social justice activist, independent filmmaker, social entrepreneur and author.
  • Leon Russell – chair, National Board of Directors, NAACP.


Conceptualized by Rodney L. Hurst Sr., author, Black historian and Civil Rights activist, the Jacksonville Civil Rights Conference aims to educate participants about civil rights movements through featured speakers and interactive breakout sessions across four key areas:

  1. Connecting historical contexts to the contemporary
  2. Community building
  3. Connecting civil rights issues to arts and culture
  4. Providing leadership development opportunities through youth and adult partnerships


“Delivering on our vision to connect the historic to the contemporary, while demonstrating a different, more inclusive and collective leadership, we want the Jacksonville Civil Rights Conference to propel action,” said Hurst. “As such, our hope is to inspire action and innovation for how we move forward collectively to achieve human dignity and respect for everyone.”

The transformative, three-day event is open to all who are looking to gain deeper understanding and new perspectives on civil rights movement – past and present.

“As part of United Way of Northeast Florida’s ongoing commitment to fostering a more equitable community, we are proud to help lead the inaugural Civil Rights Conference in Jacksonville,” said Robin Abbott, Interim Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Northeast Florida. “In bringing the conference to life, our role is to amplify the work already happening in our community, uplift our local civil rights leaders, bring awareness to race equity and social justice issues affecting us all here in Northeast Florida, and, most of all, inspire action.”

Tickets for the Jacksonville Civil Rights Conference are available to purchase now at jaxcivilrightsconf.org. Tickets to attend in-person are $200. A virtual ticket option is also available for individuals and groups. Due to COVID-19 precautions, in-person attendance is limited to 200 people. For the safety of those attending the conference, COVID-19 vaccinations and masks are strongly recommended.

Additional partners of the inaugural Jacksonville Civil Rights Conference include Chris Janson of The Proximity People LLC, Hope McMath of Yellow House and Tan Mayhew of Journey2Joy Events. The conference is sponsored by Miller Electric Company, United Way of Northeast Florida, Florida Blue, CSX, The Jeff Chartrand Fund, Jacksonville Jaguars, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, UNF’s Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnic Relations, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, and Sight & Sound Productions.

For more information, including speakers and schedule, visit jaxcivilrightsconf.org.



About Rodney L. Hurst Sr.
Rodney Lawrence Hurst, Sr., Jacksonville native, is a civil rights activist, a Black historian, a United States Air Force veteran, and is the award-winning author of three books: It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®! – a personal account of the 1960 sit-in demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida, and Ax Handle Saturday; Unless WE Tell It…It Never Gets Told! and Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations about Racism and Identity Development. At 16, Hurst was the President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and was one of the leaders of the 1960 sit-in demonstrations in downtown Jacksonville. He also served two four-year terms on the Jacksonville City Council.

About LIFE
LIFE (Leadership Is For Everyone Inc.) is a leadership development utility for community and academic advocates. Because leadership looks different in different social, cultural, and political spaces, more responsive and appropriate developmental resources should be available. LIFE builds leadership capacity in those closest to the issues and situates sustainable agency within marginalized neighborhoods. We believe leadership development is for everyone and is influence and inspiration for self and others. Everyone has the capacity to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday, and it is leaderships’ responsibility to nurture that development.

About United Way of Northeast Florida
Founded in 1924, United Way of Northeast Florida has earned a reputation as a respected and efficient philanthropic organization. United Way envisions a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential. Because change doesn’t happen alone, United Way’s mission is to solve Northeast Florida’s toughest challenges by connecting people, resources and ideas. The nonprofit organization’s long tradition of addressing the human-service needs in Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and Northern St. Johns counties is made possible through the commitment of thousands of volunteers, donors and community partners. To learn more, visit unitedwaynefl.org, or follow @unitedwaynefl on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.