Are you overwhelmed by the number of issues confronting our communities and our state?

Are you growing tired of putting out fires and putting on band-aids?

Do you wonder why we work so hard with little to show for it, and what we can do differently?

The Ohio Community Rights Conference: Growing Roots and Rights for Just Communities was a wonderful success! Thank you to those who participated.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2018 from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Quest Conference Center
8405 Pulsar Place, Columbus OH 43240

The purpose of this conference was to bring together people with diverse issues from across the state to discover common origins and explore systemic solutions.

What we did

Together we explored social, political, and environmental issues through five Breakout Community Conversations to reveal an unexpected common origin that prevents Ohioans from creating the just communities they envision. Topics of conversation and participants included:

  • Safe Communities – Melina Abdullah and Chad Nicholson, PA CELDF Organizer discussed issues such as gun violence, police accountability, racial/ethnic profiling, and mass incarceration.
  • Fair Communities – Cathi Steele, Executive Director of Mid-Ohio Workers Association and Ben Price, CELDF National Organizing Director discussed issues such as living wage vs minimum wage, worker rights, predatory lending and “right to work.”
  • Just Communities – Bob Fitrakis, Columbus Free Press and Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, Esq. discussed issues such as fair and free elections, gerrymandering, money in politics, and the right to citizen-led initiative.
  • Healthy Communities – Kevin O’Donnell, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Saraquoia Bryant, President of Grassroots Ohio and Tish O’Dell, OH CELDF Organizer discussed issues such as recognizing drug use as a public health issue instead of a crime; funding drug treatment instead of incarceration; the role of state preemption in protecting the health of community residents.
  • Sustainable Communities – Mike Ferner, founder Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie and Mari Margil discussed issues such as the protection of water e.g. Lake Erie, private property rights vs rights of nature, and industrial agriculture vs protecting the local environment.

Attendees left with:

  • A deeper understanding of how our legal and governing structures are designed to oppress
    and keep us from getting what we want in our communities
  • Discovery of connections between issue-specific and community rights concepts
  • Networking with social, political, and environmental groups from across Ohio
  • Tools and inspiration to drive forward systemic change, echoing activists in abolition,
    suffrage, and Civil Rights
9:00 – 9:15 Welcome and Opening Statements
9:15 – 9:30 Introduction
9:30 – 10:30 Keynote Address – Mari Margil
10:30 – 10:45 Break
10:45 – 12:00 Breakout Community Conversations
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch
1:00 – 1:15 Introduction
1:15 – 2:15 Keynote Address – Melina Abdullah
2:15 – 2:30 Break
2:30 – 4:00 Panel Discussion – Making Connections
4:00 – 4:30 Audience Q&A
4:30 – 5:00 Wrap-up


Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers and addresses include:

Melina Abdullah, Ph.D., a nationally recognized expert on race, gender, class, and social movements, Chair of Pan African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and co-founder of Black Lives Matter will present “The Audacity of Blackness: Rights, Repression, and Resistance in the Black Lives Matter Era.” Five years ago Black Lives Matter was birthed as a new iteration of the Black freedom struggle.  It stands as an assertion that Black people have the right to live and walk freely and hold a sacred duty to struggle to end state-sanctioned violence. Black Live Matter is deeply rooted in the Black radical tradition and, as such, has been targeted by the state for repression. While the impact is felt, organizers continue to audaciously summon transgenerational memory and power to resist, vision, and build towards freedom and justice.

Mari Margil, MPP, a leader of the International Center for the Rights of Nature, an expert on the right of local community self-government, and Associate Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) will present “Nature: Invisible Under the Law.” In the tradition of past people’s movements – including the Abolitionists and the Suffragists, which organized to recognize rights of those treated as right-less under the law – today a grassroots movement is building to recognize legal rights of the environment-the Rights of Nature Movement.



  • Tabling, sponsorship, and endorsement opportunities are available.
  • $10 registration is required – lunch included
  • Ample free parking
  • Overnight accommodations within walking distance
  • Email us for more information: and watch for updates on our Facebook Event Page.