Prof elected chairwoman of civil rights committee

by Rebecca Teale

An outspoken advocate of minority rights, General College writing professor Lisa Albrecht will have a louder voice on multicultural issues this year as chairwoman of the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights.
Albrecht won her title during an election held two weeks ago. She has served on the commission for eight years.
She will replace Tim Cole, a University law student who held the post last year.
The commission is a volunteer body of 21 Minneapolis citizens appointed by the mayor or by the City Council. The organization works with the Department of Civil Rights in investigating civil rights violations.
“She will give direction to the commission,” said commission liaison Liza O’Reilly. “She uses her leadership in elevating communities at a grassroots level.”
Albrecht said her goal is to gain greater visibility for minority communities. She will advise the mayor and city council on issues involving Hmong, African-American, Native American and gay and lesbian communities, among others.
Members of these groups can bring complaints to the panel if they believe they have been discriminated against. The commission can fine businesses and individuals if they are found in violation of civil rights codes.
As chairwoman, Albrecht said she will pursue a local parallel to Clinton’s race initiative to increase dialogues on race and racism.
Ironically, Albrecht is only the second woman to be elected chairwoman of a commission designed to protect civil rights.
“I was surprised to learn that there has only been one other woman chair,” Albrecht said. “It makes this role even more of an honor and a challenge.”
The other woman to hold the commission’s top spot was Ophelia Balcos, who held the designation about a decade ago.
At the University, Albrecht has worked on diversifying General College curriculums by making them more inclusive of minority groups.
Rose Brewer, chairwoman of the Department of Afro-American and African Studies, and co-editor with Albrecht on a book titled “Bridges of Power: Women’s Multicultural Alliances,” said Albrecht’s awareness and sensitivity will make her an attentive leader.
Albrecht said she became involved with the civil rights commission because she wanted to take a proactive stance on incidents of discrimination.
“For democracies to work best, citizens have to be involved,” Albrecht said. “Everyone needs to take leadership on issues of race.”