ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

July 6, 2017

The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid

Filed under: ACLA,Affirmative Action,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 9:40 pm

Dear Colleagues,

The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid (BALA) are pleased to announce our formation and existence as an official faction of attorneys at the Legal Aid Society. Black lawyers have played an integral role in Legal Aid’s pursuit of its mission to provide quality representation to low-income and underrepresented individuals in New York City. We have been staunch advocates for just outcomes for our clients, which has required that we battle against the social injustices and institutionalized racism that have an overarching dictate on the lives and trajectories of our clients. Simultaneously, black attorneys have had to engage in an ongoing effort to ensure that we are being equally recognized at Legal Aid, valued in the same way as our colleagues and not targeted or treated in a disparate manner. Moreover, black attorneys have had to take up the responsibility of making sure that we and attorneys of color at large are recruited and retained by Legal Aid.

An examination of United States history makes it clear why it is necessary that groups exist to protect and advance the interests of black people. Throughout the centuries of slavery in America, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow Era and the Civil Rights Movement; evolving and perpetual systems were put in place to oppress black people. These systems continuously facilitate many of the existing obstacles that impact our lives and the lives of our clients, from pervasive poverty and disenfranchisement to mass incarceration. It is not happenstance that the majority of Legal Aid’s clients are black. As a result of the documented lineage of American anti-black racism, many educational institutions; corporations, including a number of law firms; social organizations and even the U.S. Congress have seen the necessity of establishing groups to address issues pertinent to its black population. Similarly, it is essential that Legal Aid has BALA.

As Black people, in general, we often have to strive to make sure that we are being heard and that our individual and collective concerns are not buried or ignored. Black caucuses within various organizations offer a space for black people to address issues relevant to the black population within its ranks. Black attorneys here at Legal Aid need an official space to address concerns that are specific to us; a space where black attorneys can dissect nuanced issues that intersect with race, identity and our profession, as well as how those issues reach our clients.

The fact that black attorneys are an invaluable asset to the Legal Aid Society, cannot be reiterated enough. In many instances, we mirror the faces and backgrounds of our clients: This is a reality that makes us indispensable. It is vital that Legal Aid makes a priority out of maintaining a thriving population of black lawyers. Recent social trends demonstrate the importance of having black attorneys occupy a space within Legal Aid. We lend a resonant voice to the experiences of so many of our clients in an era that is rapidly returning to conservatism. We are living through a period in which black men and women make up the highest number of individuals killed by police; where corporately sponsored gentrification is displacing large numbers of residents in historically black neighborhoods from their homes in the city; where right-wing policies deny poor black people access to healthcare and proper education; where undocumented black immigrants are among those most heavily targeted by the government; where black LGBTQIA individuals are besieged by police, discriminated against, and experience violence at alarming rates; where black transgender individuals are murdered at rates higher than that of any of their counterparts; and where black neighborhoods are over-policed, serving as a pipeline into the prison system. All of these issues highlight the need for our clients to see scores of black attorneys advocating on their behalf. The current incidence of black attorneys departing in droves from Legal Aid must be addressed in a way that is direct and effective. Although black attorneys have traditionally fought for the rights of attorneys of color, other marginalized groups, as well as the larger union and will continue to do the same; black attorneys come up against challenges at the organization that are germane to being black and a lawyer at Legal Aid. There are issues that particularly affect the well-being of black attorneys at Legal Aid that require the singular focus that the black caucus would provide.

In our practice, we continuously balance the stress of our daily work against the insidious influence of anti-blackness; this process intensifies the vicarious trauma we endure in our profession. Black lawyers at Legal Aid have had to discreetly discuss the ways in which race impacts our experience, which includes our intersectional identities, such as being black and part of the LGBTQIA spectrum or being black and an immigrant or being black and from a historically under-resourced but over-policed neighborhood. Such informal conversations often go unacknowledged because black professionals frequently navigate the very real fear of being seen as agitators in environments where we are the minority; history has shown us that resultant repercussions can occur. Nonetheless, we understand that our quiet summits actually serve as a place to strategize against oppression and focus on our issues. At Legal Aid, black lawyers consistently battle against erasure as well as struggle to be included. The Legal Aid Society is not a Utopia, but rather a microcosm of the world that surrounds us, with all of its flaws and shortcomings. Within this microcosm, we the black attorneys at the Legal Aid Society intend to carve out a space for our voices, by us and for us, to address issues we face. Black attorneys have fought and will continue to fight for the rights of all marginalized people and stand beside our union brothers and sisters in solidarity on issues that affect us all. We know that our efforts will advance racial and social equity, not just for black attorneys, but our clients and the Legal Aid Society at large.

In Solidarity,
The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid

May 25, 2017

FYI: Palestinian Prisoners Hunger Strike in Day 39

From: Torres, Azalia
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2017 6:07 PM
Subject: FYI: Palestinian Prisoners Hunger Strike in Day 39

On March 15, 2017, the Legal Aid Society and Attorneys of Color of Legal Aid jointly said:“[F]or as long as The Legal Aid Society exists, we will stand in solidarity with marginalized communities in their fight for equal justice and racial equity.” Today, in the very same spirit, people around the world are standing in solidarity with 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners now in their 39th day of a hunger strike against conditions that Amnesty International calls “unlawful and cruel.”

Hunger strikes, like that held by U.S. prisoners last fall, are part of a long international tradition of resistance to injustice. But the Israeli government — which receives $3.8b/year in U.S. weaponsand closely coordinates with the NYPD and other police agencies that systematically target Black, Brown, and Native communities in this country — has branded the strikers “terrorists,” just as the South African apartheid regime once labeled Nelson Mandela.

Despite threats of force-feeding, the prisoners remain steadfast“Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.

With our own government funding this injustice, the prisoner strike concerns us all. Dr. Martin Luther King, while himself a political prisoner in Birmingham Alabama, put it best: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

*Legal Workers, Legal Organizations and Law Students Letter of Support for Palestinian Hunger Strikers (National Lawyers Guild, April 2017)

*An Injury to One is an Injury to All: Workers Support Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike (Labor for Palestine, May 21, 2017)

In addition, there is a NYC solidarity protest for the prisoners, 5:30pm tomorrow (Friday) in Union Square. Legal observers needed.

March 10, 2017

Re: Joint Statement From the LGBTQ and ACLA Caucuses: We don’t need your permission to exist

From: Torres, Azalia
Sent: Friday, March 10, 2017 10:22 AM
Subject: Re: Joint Statement From the LGBTQ and ACLA Caucuses: We don’t need your permission to exist.

As someone who’s been at LAS for 6 months short of 30 yrs, I’ve experienced a lot of the conditions which have driven so many of my colleagues of color away. I’ve chosen to stay and address and struggle w colleagues and management to bring about change in an org which has often been insensitive to the needs of those of us who are not white or heterosexual or different in any way fr their  definition of normal and acceptable. Unlike many of you, I’ve personally experienced the type of exchanges that occurred via email to Jason. I’ve also throughout these years attempted to struggle to address those incidents with patience and with the goal of changing minds. Because of course it always falls on “us” different folks to educate and be sensitive to ignorance and indifference.

I’M TIRED!!  The burden is on all of you who have historically ignored the disrespect, ignorance, insensitivity, and hurtful behavior of not only the idiot who wrote the disgusting email but of many others in our midst: throughout the entire staff of LAS. I’m not going to be tolerant or willing to educate at all any individual who demonstrates repeatedly their disdain for all that doesn’t conform to their idea of “acceptable”. Individuals who view any efforts to educate them as a waste of time:  sensitivity or anti bias trainings. Even being disrespectful during the process. ENOUGH!

Things have to change around here in a dramatic way. Expressing views in statements is not enough. You who are not folks of color, LGBTQ, or different in so many ways, have to take responsibility for addressing your fellow colleagues when a wrong is committed. Stop looking to us to do the hard work. YOU MUST BEAR THE BURDEN. STOP GETTING OFF SO EASY BY JUST AGREEING WITH US. DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS UGLINESS WHICH JUST MAKES OUR LIVES HERE AT LAS LESS THAN WONDERFUL.

This does not reflect the opinions of anyone but me. I take all responsibility for the above sentiments. Especially if someone is offended by them.

March 9, 2017

Joint Statement From the LGBTQ and ACLA Caucuses: We don’t need your permission to exist

Filed under: ACLA,Affirmative Action,Islamophobia,LGBTQ,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 5:53 pm

From: Ma, Ying-Ying
Sent: Thursday, March 09, 2017 4:53 PM
Subject: Joint Statement From the LGBTQ and ACLA Caucuses: We don’t need your permission to exist.

Joint Statement From the LGBTQ and ACLA Caucuses: We don’t need your permission to exist.

We don’t need anyone’s permission to exist, in fact, we’ve been existing since the beginning of time… and will continue to do so despite the violence perpetrated on our communities.

We are responding to an email of hate sent in response to the LGBTQ Caucus’ email regarding the killings of women of color who are trans. Honoring our lost community members, mourning and raising up the lives of our living and our dead is not brainwashing, it is our right. As it is our right to bring our full selves to work without being called abnormal, sinful, and without being dehumanized. It is this very dehumanization that contributes to the crisis of violence facing transgender women of color that the LGBTQ Caucus was compelled to write about yesterday. This is the context we write from.

We do not need anyone’s permission to exist.

Some of us didn’t sleep last night after reading the email. Some of us didn’t feel safe to come to work today. Some of us felt terror and fury for our clients. Some of us have never felt safe. Some of us are finding it hard to do the job we love. Some of us don’t have the privilege of simply opting out of this conversation, or tuning out the reality of violence that impacts our lives and the lives of people we represent. Attempts, by our colleagues, to halt or stop the conversation as a way to silence us, perpetuates violence and further marginalizes those of us who are most oppressed within our communities.

We do not need anyone’s permission to exist. And our very existence is not sinful, nor is our clients’. Rather, it is courageous and an act of daily resistance to survive.

Those of us who are trans, queer, people of color – specifically Black and Muslim, have appreciated the responses in solidarity with our communities. LGBTQ people of color experience marginalization in intersectional ways, and by people and places we call home, work, colleagues, and family. We welcome the support and allyship from those who prioritize our safety. In particular, we want to share our commitment to supporting people who wish to express their outrage around the transphobia, homophobia, racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia within our work space.

We do not need anyone’s permission to exist.

We will not tolerate anti-Blackness and transphobia in the name of the 1st Amendment. We appreciate the administration’s swift response in this matter, this time, and are hopeful that it will respond with similar speed to future instances of anti-Blackness and other forms of racism such as Islamophobia and xenophobia.

We do not need anyone’s permission to exist.

Marginalized people are leaving Legal Aid at an alarming rate because of the explicit and implicit bigotry and bias within our organization. For instance, Brooklyn has lost ⅓ of their attorneys of color this past year alone, due in large part to tacit endorsement of oppressive and racist conduct here at Legal Aid. Navigating the violent and hostile obstacles of our job is unsustainable if we cannot count on basic safety and respect in our work spaces.

We are caucuses comprised of, but not limited to, Black trans people, people of color, queer parents, Muslim immigrants and noncitizens, Jewish lesbians and people with disabilities. Not only do we not need anyone’s permission to exist, we demand that our organization commit to doing better by us and our clients.


ACLA & LQBTQ Caucus Members

March 7, 2017

The Black Panthers, Then & Now: Kathleen Cleaver Speaks | 3/7 6PM NYU Law VH210

From: Sampeur, Jane-Roberte
Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2017 2:40 PM
Subject: The Black Panthers, Then & Now: Kathleen Cleaver Speaks | 3/7 6PM NYU Law VH210

Happing tonight if folks are interested. Should be great.

The Black Panthers, Then & Now: Kathleen Cleaver Speaks.

The NYU Law National Lawyers Guild will host former communications secretary of the Black Panther Party & professor of law at Emory University Kathleen Cleaver on March 7th at6PM at the NYU School of Law, Vanderbilt Hall Rm. 210.

Professor Cleaver will speak on the Black Panther Party, which just marked its 50th anniversary, and the implications and lessons that can be drawn from the Party’s experience in the age of Trump.

Professor Cleaver will join Palestinian-American youth organizer Aber Kawas and Black Lives Matter organizer Kei Williams to discuss what lessons young community organizers and grassroots activists can learn from the legacy of the Panthers in the struggle against racism, mass incarceration, imperialism, and police violence today.

Professor Cleaver has not only an important and unique perspective on the power of revolutionary black resistance in America, but a necessary one. We are in a time of unprecedented state violence against black and brown people in America — from Muslim bans and threats to deport millions of people, to the return of the Dakota Access Pipeline, to the explicit calls for racial profiling in policing, to the rise of right-wing extremists within the new administration. At the same time, the United States has threatened greater aggression abroad, from threats of war with Iran and the return of the use of torture to unyielding support for the violation of Palestinian rights, all expanding policies that are intricately linked with domestic abuses.

Please join us for a monumental opportunity as revive and expand the tradition of connecting anti-racist resistance at home with the fight against state violence abroad in line with the practice of the Black Panther Party.


NYU Black Allied Law Students Association
NYU Law & Social Change
NYU Coalition on Law & Representation
NYU South Asian Law Students Association
Arab-American Association of NY
NYU Students for Justice in Palestine
New York City Students for Justice in Palestine
NYU Women of Color Collective

(Full & Updated list of sponsors here:


February 2, 2017

Immigrant-led coalition demands an end to broken windows policing

From: Sampeur, Jane-Roberte
Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2017 12:02 AM
Subject: Immigrant-led coalition demands an end to broken windows policing

See press release below. Events today and Saturday.

Immigrant-led coalition demands an end to broken windows policing and further criminalization of immigrants.

On Thursday, February 2nd, an immigrant-led coalition will gather outside City Hall at 12:15pm to announce their city-wide rally on Saturday, February 11th to directly challenge the criminalization of immigrants under the NYPD’s current broken windows policing before it worsens under Trump’s fascist administration.

Elected officials are talking up NYC’s sanctuary status and lining up to say they will do whatever it takes to protect “law-abiding” families and ensuring public safety. However, sanctuary under Trump’s “law and order” administration requires ending NYPD’s broken windows practices and dismantling the current policing apparatus that acts as a funnel to mass incarceration and the deportation machine.

Broken Windows strategies, and decades of over-policing, continue unabated in this city and has led to the targeting of some of New York City’s most vulnerable populations — including Black immigrants, Central and South American immigrants, and transgender immigrants.

Sanctuary, as elected officials are claiming, cannot exist without acknowledging that criminalization and deportation begins as soon as immigrants engage with the NYPD. Everyone it arrests, charged or not, has their fingerprints sent to the FBI, where ICE can use them to locate people for deportation proceedings.

These include offenses like jumping the subway turnstile – which led to over 29,000 arrests and 124,000 summonses in 2015 alone – as well as selling DVD’s on the street, forgetting to pay a fine, trespassing in a NYCHA building and having a small amount of marijuana. These arrests and prosecutions do not make us safer, and already disproportionately burden poor communities of color, specifically black people.

The term “sanctuary” most recently refers to policies that limit when and if NYPD communicates with, or submits to, (often unconstitutional) requests from federal immigration agents. But in a country where over-policing results in 1 in 3 people being arrested at least once by the age of 23, during a time when evolving technology places fingerprint scanners in the palm of every law enforcement officers’ hand, and as we anticipate the growth in federal agents active in our cities, sanctuary in practice, and as a movement, must evolve.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have largely ignored community concerns with the IDNYC program and have prioritized maintaining power within the NYPD. Their consistent disregard, plus their willingness to expand criminalization, will only lead to more deportations which divide our families and communities.

Immigrant New Yorkers have more to fear from an increasingly militarizedpolice department than they have to gain from them. As immigrants in this city, we know far too well how the NYPD preys upon our communities, entraps, detains and kills people of color. Last week the Mayor claimed to be worried about immigrants when he was in fact worried about potential cuts to federal funding for the NYPD. Enhanced surveillance capabilities of NYPD counterterrorism have targeted Muslim communities in the past–a population that the city now purports to want to protect from harm.

We seek public safety and protection for and defined by all: immigrants—documented or undocumented, people with criminal convictions, workers, gender nonconforming folks, the poor, people with disabilities, Muslims, women, and all people of color. This requires a moratorium on broken windows strategies, divestment from the NYPD, an end to willful collaboration between police and ICE, and the city’s investment in our communities.

ICE FREE NYC, Coalition to End Broken Windows, Families For Freedom, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Equality for Flatbush, ANSWER Coalition, El Grito de Sunset Park, Why Accountability

May 4, 2016


From: Sampeur, Jane-Roberte
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2016 4:41 PM

Thanks to everyone who came out in support of fair treatment for our clients, justice for Akai Gurley and ending mass criminalization and state sanctioned violence against communities of color. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, see links below recapping Monday’s powerful protest.

To be continued…

May 2, 2016

Join us to End the Mass Criminalization of Black & Brown Communities (ACLA)

Filed under: ACLA,Akai Gurley,Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Police Abuse,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 12:04 pm

View in searchable PDF format: join-us-to-end-the-mass-criminalization-of-black

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