Speaking before her keynote speech at the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Human Relations Commission annual dinner at The Centre Friday evening, renowned civil rights lawyer Constance L. Rice looked back on her work in strengthening the relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and inner city groups there.
“The struggle is you can’t get equality and social justice in poor communities unless the police are with you — that’s the dilemma,” said Rice, who was dubbed “the voice of Los Angeles’ oppressed” by Los Angeles Magazine.
In her years as a lawyer, Rice has worked on cases of race and sex discrimination, police misconduct and policy problems in the Los Angeles public transportation system.
“That’s the counter intuitive part of this: You have to make all the folks you’re fighting your allies and your partners,” said Rice, a graduate of Harvard University and the New York University School of Law.
She was the keynote speaker of the human relations commission’s annual dinner. The original keynote speaker, Martin R. Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was unable to speak at the event.
Rice, co-founder of the Advancement Project, has twice made the California Law Business Journal To 10 list of most influential attorneys in California.
During the event, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke presented the Mayor’s Celebration of Diversity Awards:
n Marvaline Price, the personnel committee chairwoman for the Community Action Program of Evansville, received the evening’s top award — the Sadelle Berger award, which is given to a community advocate who fights for “fairness, inclusion and respect” for people of the community.
n Ameriqual Group LLC, the nation’s largest distributor of military rations, received the Workforce Diversity award, given to a business or organization that has achieved a diverse workforce.
n USI Safe Zone Project, which provides education on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues to the campus community, received the Willie Effie Thomas development award.
n President of the Evansville African American Museum board of directors Harold Calloway and Lu Porter, the museum’s executive director, received the Sue Woodson community relations award.
n Evansville’s Celebration of Diversity Distinguished Lecture Series, which has brought R&B star John Legend and actor Harry Belafonte to speak on diversity issues, was given the leadership award for developing diversity strategies in the community.
The Evansville-Vanderburgh County Advisory Board on Disability Services also recognized John Hassebrock, loft manager of Sodexo at USI, with the Employer of Distinction award for his work providing people with disabilities employment opportunities.
The Evansville Commission on the Social Status of African American Males recognized former Evansville Police Department Chief Brad Hill for his contributions to the commission.
Previous winners of the Sadelle Berger award included Rev. Phil Hoy, Kelley Coures and Lynn Miller-Pease.