Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D) Missouri joined with members of the 1st District Congressional Youth Cabinet, the Faith & Politics Institute, and the Search for Common Ground at a daylong historic tour and powerful discussion about St. Louis' difficult racial past and the progress that could be achieved in the future with an honest & open commitment to civic engagement and positive action. The Congressional Conversation on Race was only the fourth such event of its kind in the nation.
Congressman Clay opened the proceedings with remarks at St. Louis' historic Old Court House, the site where Dred and Harriet Scott first sued for their freedom in 1847. "Today, we hope to begin a new way to talk about race relations," said the Congressman."We hope to steer the conversation away from debate and blame towards listening; towards understanding; towards our shared humanity to achieve a stronger, more unified community. In too many cases, young people are turning to mindless violence. That is happening in St. Louis and across this country. I believe that racism and the many disparities it creates in jobs, education, healthcare, housing and even in our judicial system, is a major contributing factor to the problem."
In additional to the opening remarks at the Old Court House, students, teachers, community leaders, clergy and law enforcement officials experienced a remarkable reenactment of the painful legacy of slavery in Missouri and a historic tour of civil rights landmarks including: the Dred and Harriet Scott statue; the Mary Meacham Bissell Point Underground Railroad site; the pool at Fairgrounds Park and the site of the Jefferson Bank protests in downtown St. Louis. The day concluded with an intense discussion at the Missouri Historical Society that focused on youth violence and the role that race plays in perpetuating a cycle where too many young people continue to act in irresponsible and harmful ways.
Race and violence have always been linked in America. The goal of the Congressional Conversation on Race was to engage the community, especially young people, in a new way to indentify progressive actions to promote truth, racial reconciliation and healing. That process is on-going.