Renee Hatcher with the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Inc. Speaks Friday at the Colloquium on Civil and Human Rights. | Carrie Napoleon~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 8, 2014 9:45AM
GARY — Backers of the creation of a National Civil Rights Hall of Fame in the city brought about 100 people together Friday for a discussion on civil and human rights in society and how to continue to press the movement forward.
Many of the early civil rights victories made in the courts and in Congress have been eroded over the past 50 years, said Renee Hatcher, an attorney with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Inc.
Hatcher was among four panelists Friday at the Colloquium on Civil and Human Rights at the Genesis Convention Center and was joined by Thandabantu Iverson from Indiana University; Teresa Torres, executive director of Everybody Counts; and Lorenzo Crowell, a community organizer with the Service Employees International Union.
“I think that we’re in a moment right now where we can no longer ignore this discussion,” Hatcher said.
She said the civil rights movement has become a movement for full inclusion and that a child’s ZIP code should not determine the quality of his or her education, the safety of his or her neighborhood or the access to health care.
“There is still much to be done to achieve these goals. We have broken barriers on paper that still need to be addressed in reality,” Hatcher said to applause.
Torres called civil rights for all people including those who may have some type of disability a matter of basic human rights. She said people with disabilities need to be included in the discussion on civil and human rights because their need for equity is the same. Every person should have access to the things most people take for granted, such as a bathroom they can use.
“They just want to level the playing field so they can go about their business,” Torres said.
The discussion was an opportunity for attendees to learn more about the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame, envisioned as a tourist attraction and first-rate center for information, documentation and the preservation of artifacts from the Civil Rights Movement.
The facility was first proposed by former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher. Attendees received a copy of the facility’s executive summary, which estimates between 123,300 and 184,900 visitors would come to the site annually.
Plans call for a museum, learning centers and an IMAX movie theater for the exhibition of films on the topic of civil rights. The project would be built on 10 acres at the old Banneker school site at 1912 W. 23rd St. and would be an anchor for the Midtown neighborhood of Gary.