The Loving Conference June 13, 1992(Revised and republished from the AMEA Networking News, Vol.4, No.5, Fall 1992)
by Ramona Douglass
Copyright 1992 and 1997 by AMEA, All Rights Reserved
On Saturday morning, June 13th, 1992, in the sleepy, affluent town of Chevy Chase, Maryland, over two hundred interracial families gathered at the National 4H Center for what, in retrospect, must be considered a compelling historic event. For it was twenty-five years ago and a day since the U.S. Supreme Court, under the auspices of Chief Justice Earl Warren, ruled that the state of Virginia's anti-miscegenation statutes prohibiting interracial marriage violated "both the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment." It also deemed invalid, per Justice Potter Stewart, any state's law making the "criminality of an act depend on the race of the actor."
Mildred Jetter, who is mixed race, and the late, white, Richard Perry Loving, became the catalysts in this civil rights drama when they chose to consummate their love for one another by getting married in 1958. The chronicle of events which led to their arrest, conviction, and subsequent exile from the state of Virginia, are fully detailed in a special, commemorative section of New People Magazine which was reprinted for the conference, and originally came from the November/December issue. What's important is the fact that, thanks to the courage and persistence of two young A.C.L.U. lawyers, Bernard Cohen and Phillip Hirschkop, the Lovings' case was not only heard in the highest court in the land, but set a precedent which toppled similar anti-miscegenation laws in sixteen other states. A detailed accounting of what statutes were on the books, on a state-by-state basis, was compiled by AMEA President Carlos Fernandez. A mapped analysis and display was provided by AMEA Central region Vice President Ramona Douglass. Both were available at the Loving Conference.
The high point of the Conference for me, as the product of an interracial marriage, was having the honor of personally presenting Ms. Mildred Loving with a "Magic of Change" mug on behalf of the Biracial Family Network (BFN) of Chicago. Bernie Cohen's moving keynote address touched the hearts of all of us in the room, because he made it clear that the Lovings didn't just represent the case of his career, but became an integral part of his life and his consciousness. Both lawyers have stayed in touch with the Loving family. Peggy Fortune, daughter of Richard and Mildred Loving, was also in attendance at the Conference with her mixed-race husband.
There were several workshops running simultaneously in morning and afternoon sessions. I attended "The Biracial Experience" workshop in the morning and was part of the workshop panel on "Biracial/Multiracial Category: Progress to Date" in the afternoon. Carlos Fernandez, myself, and Claudette Bennette of the Census Bureau, co-piloted the discussion. BFN's Education Chairperson, Debbie Bump, and BFN adult, Melissa Bray (who recently graduated from Northwestern) attended different workshops on "What About the Parents: An Honest Dialogue" (dealing with parents whose children are interracially involved), and "Issues in Transracial Adoption and Foster Care".
Kathlyn Gay, an author and friend, was part of a panel on "Write Makes Might: The Power of Books and Articles". LA Times reporter Itabari Njeri was also part of this panel, and later, joined in the discussions at the "Biracial/Multiracial Category" workshop. Ms. Njeri, who is herself of multiethnic extraction, queried AMEA as to why we were not fighting for the Census to change the "Black" racial category to "African American". I replied that "it would be presumptuous for us to assume the needs and desires of another ethnic community when we are fighting so diligently for everyone's right to self-definition." The good news is that AMEA hopes to initiate some constructive dialogue between members of our National Board of Directors and the leadership of some of the more established civil rights groups in the African American, Hispanic and Native American communities.
The Conference culminated in a moonlight dinner cruise on the Potomac, during which I had the distinct pleasure of hosting a table of ten other biracial/multiracial adults, all of whom really appreciated the time together, sharing personal anecdotes and reviewing the exciting events of the day.
Hats off to Interracial Family Circle (IFC) of Washington, D.C. for co-sponsoring this monumental project with AMEA. Eastern Region Vice President Edwin Darden and his wife Lori are to be commended for remaining calm, cool, and focused, despite the many challenges they faced and overcame to make the Loving Conference a smashing success! There was extensive media coverage, both locally (e.g. the Washington Post) and out-of-state (e.g. the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit News, Philadelphia Enquirer and the Allentown Morning Call).