UB to Host White House Dialogue On Race

By Mara McGinnis

Release Date: February 26, 1999 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Members of the UB and Buffalo communities will have an opportunity to voice their ideas and concerns regarding the issue of race during "One America: Conversations That Bring Us Together," a formal dialogue on the issue that will be held from 3-5:30 p.m. March 24 in the Center for Tomorrow on the North Campus.

The event, part of the White House Initiative on Race: "One America In The 21st Century," will be moderated by William E. Leftwich, III, deputy assistant U.S. secretary of defense for equal opportunity.

It will be sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences.

"UB's 'One America' dialogue promises to be an event that will move us closer to a community that is absent of the fear and suspicion that too often characterize communities all over the country today," said Brenda Moore, associate professor of sociology and organizer of the event.

In 1997, President Clinton asked his advisory board for the "Initiative on Race," chaired by historian John Hope Franklin, to reach out to local communities and organize constructive dialogues with Americans from different races and backgrounds to better understand the causes of racial tension.

In September 1998, the advisory board submitted a report calling for a continuation of these types of discussions, which have been held in cities nationwide since the initiative began. The current Initiative for "One America," headed by presidential appointee Ben Johnson, will continue through 2000.

"Several race and ethnic issues already have been identified in the City of Buffalo and it is important that we examine these issues," said Moore. "UB needs to be part of the discussion. As more people of different cultural backgrounds move into leadership positions, we cannot function as a university, a city, or a nation without eliminating the existing stereotypes."

Dialogue participants will include prominent figures of different racial and ethnic groups from the Buffalo and UB communities who are well aware of the racial and ethnic problems in the Buffalo area, Moore said.

The discussion panel will be composed of approximately 40 members, 20 from UB and 20 from the Buffalo-area community.

UB President William Greiner and Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello will give opening remarks at the event.

Moore noted that Leftwich will submit a report to the White House initiative based on concerns raised by the participants during the dialogue.

Leftwich directs the development and coordination of equal-opportunity policies and programs affecting virtually all civilian employees and military personnel within the U.S. Department of Defense and exercises staff supervision over two directorates of equal-opportunity professionals.

A member of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans, he also is an ex-officio member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. In 1995, he received the Benjamin L. Hooks Distinguished Service Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Moore explained that she choose UB as the site for the event in the spirit of "building bridges" between the City of Buffalo and the university.

"The UB administration is committed to promoting pluralism on campus and hosting this dialogue will reflect and reinforce this commitment," said Moore, who chaired the Faculty Senate Committee on Affirmative Action from 1996-98.

Among the UB participants in the dialogue will be Claude Welch, Jr., SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Political Science; Barbara H. Tedlock, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology; Henry L. Taylor, Jr., director of the Center for Urban Studies, and Donna Rice, associate vice president for student affairs. Mark Devasagayam, a former student in Moore's "Race and Ethnic Relations" class, will represent students.

Participants from the community will include Frank Mesiah, president of the Buffalo NAACP; Lana Benatovich of the National Conference for Community and Justice; Ellen Grant-Bishop, commissioner for the Erie County Department of Mental Health; Brenda McDuffie, president of the Buffalo Urban League, and James Pitts, president of the Buffalo Common Council.

The UB "One America" dialogue will be free and open to the public for observation only. Seating will be limited. Tickets, which will be required, will be available on a first-come basis. To obtain tickets or for more information on the program, contact Bruce Kolesnick at 645-3705.

More information on the White House Initiative for "One America" is available at .