At the 45th National Preservation Conference held in San Francisco last year the 2,000 attendees identified as long overdue the need to recognize the contributions of African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asians, and other cultural groups to preservation and the need to attract additional minority members to preservation.
We made a commitment to listen to what these individuals want and, with them, to make preservation part of the solution to current problems. To this end the upcoming 46th National Preservation Conference to be held in Miami October 7 to 11 offers us all a special opportunity. The focus will be on cultural diversity, and the objective is to offer those from varied cultural backgrounds the opportunity to participate in these programs, to be part of the dialogue, and to take back new skills and understanding to community efforts.
Will this make a difference? It is not a substitute for attracting a more culturally diverse participation in our own organizations. Rather, it is an opportunity to bring grass-roots minority leaders into a dialogue with hundreds of preservationists from across the United States and for all of us to learn from each other.
Rebecca Harrison, an African-American from Memphis, Tennessee, came to the San Francisco conference thanks to financial help from her church and others. She was involved in preservation prior to the conference, but she has become even more committed since attending. There are thousands of Rebecca Harrisons to be found in communities across our country if we set about finding them. The dividends, for them and for us, of having them participate in the conference will be evident for years to come.
How do we do it? The National Trust has raised initial funds for partial scholarships. We are highlighting cultural diversity in all of our conference marketing. We are asking preservationists registering for the conference to make a donation to increase the fund. We are contacting minority organizations and asking for their assistance. We will also be videotaping conference sessions for later broadcast through a PBS satellite feed and other distribution.
To seize the opportunity, we invite you and your organization's members to consider doing the following.
- Identify active minority leaders or promising students in your area-leaders who would benefit from the conference and enrich the discussions there.
- Talk with them about the conference.
- Work out with them, with local supporters-churches, local government, or foundations-and with the National Trust the arrangements and finances to get them to the conference.
- Be a friend during the conference. Make sure they meet people, get to relevant sessions, and are welcomed, and stay in touch with your colleagues after the conference.
Confirmed keynote speakers include Harvey B. Gantt, the first African-American mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, an architect, and a former candidate for the United States Senate; Linda Chavez, a writer, a television commentator, and a former director of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission; and John Lewis, a civil rights activist and a U.S. congressman from Atlanta; and Scott Momaday of the Kiowa tribe, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a professor, and a painter.
For more information on the conference, the scholarships, the video conference, the information tables, or the information exchange, contact Peter Brink at (202) 673-4165, Penny Jones at (202) 673-4039, or Kathy Cox at (202) 673-4089. (Note: As of April 2019, this contact information is outdated).
Publication date: May/June 1992