March 29, 2019

BERKELEY, CA: A roster of high-profile activists, artists, government officials, and scholars, including Rev. William J. Barber, II, NFL star Michael Bennett, Pulitzer Prize winner Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, star of the TV show Queen Sugar Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Community Change president Dorian Warren, and Women’s March co-organizer Linda Sarsour, will be featured at a three-day conference April 8-10 in Oakland that will explore creative and practical ways to build communities of belonging across the world.

The Haas Institute’s third Othering and Belonging Conference, held in downtown Oakland, will prioritize bridging as a necessary response to the far-right shifts taking place globally, which are in large part due to globalization and rapid changes in demographics.

“By communities of belonging we mean those that embrace and see the value of difference, who understand our shared humanity, and where institutions are organized to serve people,” john a. powell, the director of the Haas Institute and conference chair, who is a professor of law at UC Berkeley, noted.

“Because bridging needs to happen at all levels, we’ve selected presenters who represent all areas of society, including government, philanthropy, academia, media, labor, and others. And to underline the intent to connect with social change leaders internationally, we will also have people from many different countries,” powell added.

Close to 1,500 participants will be in attendance to hear from thought leaders on topics such as understanding the threat of rising authoritarianism, bolstering a multi-racial democracy, and how to understand belonging in the contexts or realms of artificial intelligence, economics, mind science, disability justice, and much more.

The program is designed to answer the question, “How do we make belonging real?,” and will look at how bridging can be used to defuse social anxieties and tensions between different groups, while not flattening differences.

Rev. William Barber, a leader of the new Poor People's Campaign and recent MacArthur “genius” award recipient, will deliver the closing keynote. Over the years he has built a reputation for bringing together inclusive coalitions that are multiracial and interfaith, working across race, gender, age, and class lines, and which are dedicated to addressing poverty, inequality, and systemic racism.

Government leaders who will present at the conference include Adrienne Clarkson, the former Governor General of Canada; Phil Thompson, New York City Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives; Julie Nelson, the director of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity; and a cohort of local government workers.

Disability rights advocate Haben Girma, and voting rights restoration activist Desmond Meade are also among the dozens of notable speakers who will appear at the conference.

The talks will be supplemented by artistic performances by Christian Parrish Takes the Gun (known professionally as “Supaman”), who is a Native American dancer and innovative hip hop artist; Aswat Ensemble, which is a multi-racial Arabic music group from the Bay Area; and Contra-Tiempo, which is a multilingual dance group based in Los Angeles.

Among the international presenters will be Mamadou Goita from Mali, who is a socio-economist who works closely with farmers’ organizations in Africa and other continents, and Bertha Zuñiga Caceres from Honduras, who is the daughter of assassinated environmentalist and indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. There will also be participants from Cuba, Australia, and other countries.

The conference provides a forum for people from all backgrounds to learn about how “othering and belonging” is useful as a framework that can strengthen work to challenge exclusionary systems and politics.

The Haas Institute held its first Othering and Belonging Conference in 2015 as a way to make more broadly accessible the othering and belonging framework, which guides the Institute’s work and thinking about the structural dynamics to social exclusion. After a tremendous turnout and interest, we followed up with a second conference in 2017 that attracted more than 1,000 attendees, and launched the Othering & Belonging Journal, three issues of which have been released so far.

Journalists interested in covering the conference should email to request a media badge. The main stage presentations will be broadcast live  on our YouTube page.

Media Contact

Marc Abizeid