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Civil Rights Conference Looks at Ways to Improve

civil rights conference

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — It’s been 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It’s a significant milestone, but activists at today’s Northeast Regional Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference in Springfield made it clear — when it comes to equality, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

“As far as we’ve come in certain areas, we are devoid in other areas and I think when you look at segregated housing patterns, the city of Springfield is number one in Latino-white disparity,” says Jamie Williamson, chair of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

HAPHousing leaders say, while our community has made huge progress in the last 50 years, many Springfield residents are still struggling because of inequality still exists.

“If you just look at the demographics, Springfield is one of the most segregated cities in the country,” says John Fisher of HAPHousing.

Fisher adds, “With Section 8, although it’s illegal to discriminate based on Section 8, probably half of the time anyone calls with a Section 8 voucher, they will essentially be discouraged in one way or another.”

“Segregated housing patterns always remain number one when it comes to issues that we have to deal with with civil rights, we still have health care disparities, we have issues regarding our school systems. I think you can talk about civil rights period as one of the biggest issues we have to deal with today in Springfield, as well as across the country,” says Williamson.

Close to 500 people packed into the Springfield Marriott to learn more about the impact of inequality, and how to stop it in Western Mass.

“We have a lot of different people from various backgrounds and ultimately the idea is to, again, come together, have various conversations, share knowledge and share programming and solutions,” says Williamson.

The two-day conference is sponsored by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Massachusetts Fair Housing and HAPHousing.


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