More than a thousand people gathered in Memphis last week for The Dream Reborn, a green conference that celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr.'s incredible life and legacy.
Van Jones reported from the event:
It was beautiful. The "Dream Reborn" conference was the first "green" summit to honor MLK and explicitly link his vision of justice to the emerging green economy. For everyone who attended, it seemed to be a transformative, life-changing experience.
For years and years, conventional wisdom has held that no "green conference" could attract people of color or low-income people. It was always assumed that attendance at such summits would always be 90 percent white and overwhelmingly affluent.
Not this time. More than 70 percent of the 1,200 attendees were people of color. And more than half of all attendees were of modest means; as a result, they qualified for some level of "scholarship" support to attend the three-day event. (Thanks to the generosity of Green For All's supporters, we were able to raise enough money to financially support hundreds of people who would have been unable to come otherwise.)
As a result, the conference didn't just LOOK totally different. It FELT totally different. From the main stage, we heard drums, prayers, choirs, poetry, and speeches that sounded more like passionate "civil rights" sermons. From the audience, we heard cheers, chants, shouts and - sometimes - sobs.
And during workshop times, the conference center looked like a ghost town. That is because few attendees lingered in the hallways, chatting and socializing and trading business cards. Instead, they crammed themselves into every chair, covered every bit of floor space, stood along the walls - hungry to learn how they could make their own neighborhoods and cities bloom as green oases of prosperity.
During the day, the plenaries, panels, workshops and sessions were packed and over-flowing with people of color, labor leaders and white people from struggling communities. And at night, slam poets grabbed the microphones, dance music took over the sound system and laughter filled the sidewalks and streets around the conference center. Outside of a church revival, I have never seen so many people of color laughing, crying and hugging.
In fact, I have never experienced the kind of energy I felt throughout the convening. Good reason, apparently. Civil right veterans in attendance were openly weeping; they said they had experienced nothing like it since the 1960s.
Something powerful shifted on April Fourth.