Has “The Dream” Been Fulfilled? What Are the Prospects of Racial Justice 51 Years After the March On Washington?


On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson, Dr. Vernon Johnson and Barbara Rofkar will join us to discuss the historical and current challenges to equal opportunity and justice in our institutions and social interactions in hopes of shedding light not heat on current events. In the wake of Ferguson and other incidents of lethal confrontations between white policemen and black men, in the wake of rollbacks on the Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action and in the wake of the continuing segregation of our communities and schools, our panelists will explore the actions and responsibilities of our institutions to keep the dream alive of a just society for all our citizens.

Associate Chief Justice Charles W. Johnson of the Washington State Supreme Court has been co-chair of the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission since 1994. The Commission’s mission is to ensure “that all courts in the state of Washington remain free of bias so that justice might be adjudicated in a neutral and fair manner.” He also co-chaired the 2004 Task Force on Civil Equal Justice Funding.
A native of Tacoma, Justice Johnson began serving on the state Supreme Court in January 1991. He has received numerous awards including, in 2012, the John J. McAulay Legal Educator Award based on his dedication to the principles and ideals of integrity, compassion, courage and professional service. Justice Johnson is dedicated to supporting educational opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth. He is cofounder of and maintains the Justices’ Scholarship to the Hispanic Academic Achievers Program that provides scholarships to eligible students in the Tri-City area.

Dr. Vernon Damani Johnson has been a faculty member in the Department of Political Science at Western Washington University since 1986, and has authored two books. He was on the advisory committee to Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Presidential Campaign in the state of Washington in 1988, and served on the Steering Committee of the Washington State Rainbow Coalition from 1988-92. When the militia movement swept into the region in the 1990s, Damani helped found the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, and chaired its board from 1997-2000. He also was President of the board of the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity, a regional human rights organization, from 2000 to 2003.

Barbara Rofkar has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and is an instructor in global studies at Western Washington University. Through her peacekeeping work in Israel and Palestine in 2002 and again in 2008, Barbara sought to bring a voice to Palestinians. She has been one of the long-time lead coordinators of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, has been instrumental in organizing the Martin Luther King Human Rights Conference each year and helped found the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center. In 2014 she was honored with the Howard Harris Lifetime Peacemaker Award.

Founded in 1993, the Bellingham City Club is a non-partisan civic organization with over 400 members that fosters dialogue and debate on important issues facing our community. City Club meets for lunch on the 4th Wednesday of the month at Northwood Hall (3240 Northwest Avenue, Bellingham, WA). Doors open at 11:30 a.m.; buffet lunch is served at 11:50 a.m.; the program starts at 12:20 p.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m. Lunch costs $13 for members, $18 for non-members and $5 for Young Adults (29 and under) when purchased in advance on Brown Paper Tickets; a limited number of tickets may be available at the door at the cost of $15 for members and $20 for guests. The program is open to the public.