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Press Release

Beyond the Rhetoric: Civil Rights & Our Shared Responsibility

July 13, 2021

New series will explore perspectives on human rights and civil liberties in the United States and will open on July 22 with a lecture by Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II

Houston, TX - Opening with a lecture by the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II on Thursday, July 22, the Rothko Chapel will present a new series, titled BEYOND THE RHETORIC: CIVIL RIGHTS & OUR SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. In conjunction with the Chapel’s 50th anniversary and its ongoing commitment to furthering social justice nationally and internationally, this four-part series will examine different understandings of and approaches to furthering human rights and civil liberties in the United States. Each program will probe into some of the most pressing questions surrounding the concept of civil rights and its historical and contemporary applications to marginalized groups in the US.

Reverend Barber will begin by bringing a faith-based and moral perspective to the topic, and sharing historical and contemporary experiences of organizing around issues of economic and racial justice. As the pandemic recedes and life regains some semblance of normalcy, discussions surrounding the shape of our society’s recovery must necessarily include the voices of those most marginalized. Reflecting on a lifetime of advocating for those very groups, Rev. Barber’s lecture will afford key insight into the contours of social struggle during this transformative moment.

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the President & Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival. He is also a bishop with The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and the author of four books: We Are Called To Be A Movement, Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing; The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and The Rise of a New Justice Movement, and Forward Together: A Moral Message For The Nation.

The virtual lecture will be livestreamed from the Rothko Chapel on Vimeo on Thursday, July 22nd at 6PM central time. Following the lecture, a moderated Q&A panel will be held by Rev. Laura Mayo, Senior Minister of Covenant Church in Houston and Rothko Chapel Board Member.

The virtual lecture series will resume in August with a lecture by Alphonso David on the continuing struggle for LGBTQIA+ equality. David is the President of the Human Rights Campaign and is the first Black man to serve as President in the organization’s fortyyear history. Litigating some of the cases central to advancing the rights of gender and sexual minority groups, David has served as Counsel to the Governor of New York, New York Deputy Secretary, Counsel for Civil Rights, and as a staff attorney for Lambda Legal.

The next lecture, date to be determined, will explore the civil rights and social challenges facing the immigrant community in the United States. Charles Kamasaki, Senior Cabinet advisor for the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy organization UnidosUS, will survey some of the barriers preventing immigrants from attaining the fullest extent of their rights as residents of this country. Kamasaki is also a Nonresident Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and has published a book, Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die (Mandel Vilar Press, 2019), articulating these same struggles as they pertain to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

The final lecture in this series, on September 30, will challenge and dissect the very notion of civil rights as it is used in political discourse, primarily from an American Indian perspective. Led by Dina Gilio-Whitaker, a lecturer of American Indian studies at California State University San Marcos, and Tink Tinker, Clifford Baldridge Emeritus Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at Iliff School of Theology.

Each of the programs presented in this series will be offered virtually via Vimeo and are free with a suggested contribution of $5-20. More information and registration is available at

This lecture series begins the framing and conversation that will culminate in a multi-day symposium in October allowing further engagement with seasoned and emerging social justice leaders to explore intersecting civil and human rights topics, including how individuals, grassroots initiatives, and policy makers can work together to create a more equitable future for all.

About Rothko Chapel
The Rothko Chapel is a contemplative space that interconnects art, spirituality and compassionate action through a broad array of public programs and community initiatives. It is open to the public every day of the year at no charge. Founded by Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil, the Chapel was dedicated in 1971 as an interfaith, nonsectarian sanctuary, and invites visitors from around the world to experience the power and sanctity of Mark Rothko’s monumental paintings. The Rothko Chapel is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to create opportunities for spiritual growth and dialogue that illuminate our shared humanity and inspire action leading to a world in which all are treated with dignity and respect.

Media contact:
Elizabeth Kubany

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