BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A national group of mayors, meeting in the church where a Ku Klux Klan bomb killed four black girls 50 years ago, on Thursday proposed a 10-point plan to end racism and discrimination in America.
The blueprint by the U.S. Conference of Mayors includes speaking out against bias, reducing poverty and working to reduce disparities between whites, blacks and Hispanics in prison sentencing.
In cities, the mayors said they want to promote inclusion and tolerance and help integrate immigrants into communities. They said closing economic gaps between whites and minorities is key.
The organization unveiled the plan in Alabama at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, an organizing spot of the civil rights movement that was bombed on Sept. 15, 1963.
“We as a country have made great progress since then, but we still have much to do,” said Mayor Kevin Jackson of Sacramento, Calif., from the pulpit.
The mayor’s association said it was establishing the U.S. Coalition of Cities Against Racism and Discrimination as part of the International Coalition of Cities Against Racism in partnership with UNESCO, the educational arm of the United Nations.
Other coalitions have been formed in Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, and in Arab nations.
Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley Jr., past president of the mayors’ conference, said he hoped the plan would gain wide support and make a difference in U.S. cities.
“I would think that eventually a few hundred mayors will sign on, because it’s something that mayors of all political persuasions are committed to,” Riley said in an interview before the meeting. “We’re right there with the people, our work is not in the abstract.”
The gathering was held during five day of commemorations of a bomb that detonated outside 16th Street Baptist, killing four young girls and critically injuring a fourth. Two black bo ys were shot to death in Birmingham that same day in the chaos that followed the bombing.