By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
The Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, will serve as keynote speaker for the 2023 International Peace Conference in Birmingham.
The two-day immersive experience will take place May 4-6 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center in downtown.
The 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.
“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,” she said. “I am hopeful that we all, from the nation’s Capitol to city halls, from homes to houses of worship, and from chambers of commerce to corporations, will answer the call.”
In 1963, Birmingham served as a headquarters for the Civil Rights Movement as it was known to be one of the most segregated cities in America. Activists and leaders such as Dr. King, Jr., Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, among other organizations, worked together with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to develop a non-violent plan to desegregate Birmingham.
On May 2, 1963, thousands of youths and children began a peaceful protest in Birmingham to help raise awareness about the lack of equality and the many injustices happening in the city. These young activists were met with violence from authorities, and in many cases, they were injured and jailed. Images of police using high-pressure water hoses and snarling police dogs on the children were seen across the globe. This event known as the Birmingham Children’s Crusade was the spark that ignited the Civil Rights Movement and changed history.
“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,” says Will Ratliff, Chairperson of the 2023 International Peace Conference.
“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,” he said. “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.”
With the theme “Imagine Peace. Build Peace,” the Conference will consist of two days where Rotarians, non-Rotarians, and distinguished leaders in academia, government, public safety, religion, business, and community service gather to share ideas and propose solutions to some of society’s most complex challenges.
By addressing human trafficking, education, racial injustice, empowerment of women and girls, violence reduction, and other topics, the Conference will highlight the pursuit of peace at all levels of society.
Dr. Bernice King is a strategist, orator, peace advocate, and 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 and training through the Kingian philosophy of nonviolence, which she re-branded Nonviolence365TM.
The conference will also feature other guest speakers, including Mayor Randall L. Woodfin of Birmingham, AL; Jennifer Jones, President of Rotary International (Windsor, Ontario, Canada); Ms. Odessa Woolfolk, Founding President and Chair Emerita of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Ravi Ravindran, Past President of Rotary International (Columbo, Sri Lanka); Steven Killelea, Founder and CEO of the Institute for Economics and Peace (Sydney, Australia); Felicia Beard, Senior Director, Racial Equity Initiatives for the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo (Buffalo, NY); Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation and Transcendental Meditation Spokesperson (New York, NY); Rev. Becca Stevens, Founder and CEO of Thistle Farms (Nashville, TN); and many more.
Registration for the 2023 International Peace Conference is now open. To learn more about the 2023 International Peace Conference and to receive news, announcements, speakers, and more, visit, www.peaceconference2023bham.com