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What to Expect During Next Week’s International Peace Conference in Birmingham

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By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times

Once again Birmingham will host visitors from around the world as the city welcomes the 2023 International Peace Conference May 4-6, as well as commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade.

A year ago, city leaders were preparing for The World Games 2022. Next week, visitors are in town from across the globe to speak on the pursuit of peace at all levels of society. In 2025, there is the World Police and Fire Games in the Magic City.

This year’s Peace Conference comes 60 years to the month after thousands of teens and children began a peaceful protest to raise awareness about the lack of equality and the injustices across the city.

They were met with violence from authorities and in many cases, injured and jailed. Images of police using high- pressure water hoses and snarling police dogs were seen across the globe. The Birmingham Children’s Crusade was the spark that ignited the Civil Rights Movement nationally and changed history.

“The Children’s March of 1963 played a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement by showing the world how young peacemakers were willing to raise their voices to help bring change to their communities,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “This conference will bring together individuals from across the globe who are committed to creating meaningful change and building peace.”

Rotary International District 6860 (North and Central Alabama), in partnership with The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and The Institute for Human Rights at the University of Alabama at Birmingham will host the Conference.

“Peace is not an abstract concept, it is an activity that can be practiced, cultivated and fostered in events like the International Peace Conference that will be hosted in Birmingham, AL,” says Rotary International President, Jennifer Jones. “It is a personal responsibility within each of us to choose peace each day – peace in our hearts, peace in our homes and peace in our communities.”

IPC 2023 will consist of two days where Rotarians, non-Rotarians, and leaders in academia, government, public safety, religion, business, and community service gather to share ideas and solutions to complex challenges ranging from human trafficking, education, racial injustice, empowerment of women and girls, and violence reduction locally and internationally.

“I am so excited to be chairing this remarkable event,” says Will Ratliff, 2023 International Peace Conference Chairman. “Having attended similar conferences all over the world, we are incorporating the best elements of other conferences along with innovations which will ensure that this peace conference is exciting to attend, filled with take home value for attendees, and a showcase for the best work of peacebuilders in our great city.”

Bernice A. King Keynote Speaker

The Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, will serve as a keynote speaker. King is CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center), which was founded by her mother as the official living memorial to the life, work, and legacy of her father. She has continued to advance her parents’ legacy of nonviolent social change through policy, advocacy, research, as well as education & training through the Kingian philosophy of nonviolence, which she re-branded Nonviolence365™.

“As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Children’s March in Birmingham, I believe that we desperately need the reminder this anniversary provides of the combined power of love, nonviolent strategy, and consistency to purpose,” said King. “Courageous, committed children were willing to be inconvenienced to overcome injustice. That same courage and commitment are needed today, and this commemoration is a call up to both. I am hopeful that we all, from the Nation’s Capital to city halls, from homes to houses of worship, and from chambers of commerce to corporations, will answer the call.”

“We are extremely excited and honored to have Dr. Bernice A. King, a true peacebuilder in her own right who is also part of a remarkable family history, as one of our keynote speakers,” said Ratliff. “Not only will she serve as a keynote speaker for the International Peace Conference but also for the Youth Peace Conference, a partner event that will host over 300 youth participants. Dr. King joins a roster of over 70 guest speakers from all over the United States, Asia, Africa, and Europe. We know she will inspire everyone in attendance.”

The 2023 International Peace Conference will be held May 4-6 at Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, 1160-1582 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N, Birmingham, AL 35203. For more visit www.peaceconference2023bham.com