Closing General Session

Moving Away From Hate & Violence: A Way Forward

Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 | 2:30 - 4 p.m. (Mountain Time)

People and entities that promote the hate of other people, races or cultures have become more open and brazen in recent years in America. In addition, the enormous political polarization of our nation has become a major barrier to addressing this problem. This session explored the state of hate groups in our nation and the root causes of this intense or passionate dislike of others. The session also explored ways to move forward to a better, more cohesive society. 

Patricia HarrisPatrice Harris, MD, MA, was the 174th president of the American Medical Association, and the organization’s first African-American woman to hold this position.  Harris has diverse experience as a private practicing physician, public health administrator, patient advocate and medical society lobbyist. She currently spearheads the AMA’s efforts to end the opioid epidemic and has been chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force since its inception. Harris has held positions of leadership with the American Psychiatric Association the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association, the Medical Association of Georgia, and The Big Cities Health Coalition.  A recognized expert in children’s mental health and childhood trauma, Harris has led efforts on both local and national levels to integrate public health, behavioral health and primary care services with  supports for employment, housing and education. She is an adjunct assistant professor in the Emory Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and an adjunct clinical assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Morehouse School of Medicine.

Aqeela SherrillsAqueela Sherrills is a spirit-centered activist, working to promote healing in marginalized communities. He grew up in the project in Watts, Los Angeles as a member of the Grape Street Crips. He fled the violence in his community for college and, at age 19, co-founded the Amer-I-Can Program to heal gang violence around the country. In 1992 Sherrills and his brother forged a historic truce between the Crips and the Bloods in his home community of Watts. He and his brother also created the Community Self-Determination Institute to tackle the overwhelming personal and social issues that underlie crime, drugs, and violence. After the death of his son, Sherrills launched The Reverence Project to develop comprehensive wellness centers in urban war zones. He is the Director of The Newark Community Street Team, a community based violence reduction initiative in New Jersey.  For the past three years, Sherrills served as the Senior Project Manager, at Shared Safety Initiative, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice for Alliance for Safety and Justice, a national nonprofit working to replace justice and prison system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save taxpayer dollars.

Margaret HuangMargaret Huang is the president and chief executive officer of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Throughout her career, Huang has championed social justice and human dignity, advocating against discrimination and oppression in all of its forms. Prior to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Huang served as the executive director of Amnesty International USA, where she was responsible for leading campaigns to protect the human rights of migrants and refugees, torture survivors, gun violence victims, and activists and protestors across the globe. Huang has worked with members of Congress on critical pieces of legislation and has advocated before the United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Huang previously served as the executive director of the Rights Working Group, which focused on protecting human rights and civil liberties of communities in the post-September 11 era. She also served as director of the U.S. program at Global Rights, program director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, program manager at The Asia Foundation, and committee staff for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Georges BenjaminModerator: Georges C. Benjamin, MD, has served as APHA Executive Director since 2002 and is leading the Association's push to make America the healthiest nation in one generation. He came to APHA from his position as secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Benjamin became secretary of health in Maryland in April 1999, following four years as its deputy secretary for public health services. As secretary, Benjamin oversaw the expansion and improvement of the state’s Medicaid program. He is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He is board-certified in internal medicine and a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, a fellow emeritus of the American College of Emergency Physicians and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health.