The NAACP Georgia State Conference came to Columbus Friday for a two-day conference focused on justice.
The organization’s second quarter statewide meeting kicked off Friday at the Columbus State University Davidson Center. About 50 people attended a Criminal Justice Colloquium, and the numbers were expected to increase to about 250 by today, said Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP.
“Criminal justice is at the forefront of Americans’ minds,” Johnson said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “We realize our policies and practices over the last 30 years have incarcerated more people than the rest of the free world and it’s unsustainable. We’ve got to reform our criminal justice system. We’ve got to make it fairer for all communities, and especially our communities of color.”
Several local experts participated in a panel discussion titled “Law Enforcement and Public Policy Responses Since Ferguson.” Those on the panel included State Sen. Ed Harbison; Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren; Chief Assistant District Attorney Alonza Whitaker; Columbus State University Psychology Professor Katherine White; Columbus Crime Prevention Director Seth Brown and local attorney Joe Wiley.
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The discussion was followed by a community mass meeting and a Young Professionals welcome reception.
Today (Saturday), the conference will continue at Friendship Baptist Church, 831 Sixth Ave., with training workshops for economic leadership, voter empowerment and criminal justice activism. The event will begin at 7:30 a.m. with a Criminal Justice Game Changer Breakfast. The morning address will be presented by Tony Lowden, director of the Faith and Justice Initiative at the Governor’s Office of Transition Support and Reentry.
The keynote speaker for the afternoon luncheon will be Maya Dillard Smith, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Atlanta. Several elected officials are also scheduled to participate in the event.
“We’re gathered here in Columbus to discuss both policy and response to policy,” said Johnson. “We’re here to discuss best practices and how we might be able to implement them here in Georgia, and what ordinary citizens can do to advance the cause of justice.”