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.

April 3, 2017

Beyond Vietnam: 50th Anniversary — Beyond The Dream

Filed under: Antiwar,Civil Rights,International Human Rights,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 1:04 am

From: Morris, Susan
Sent: Monday, April 03, 2017 1:04 AM
Subject: Beyond Vietnam: 50th Anniversary — Beyond The Dream

 

Commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence sermon in an evening with Michelle Alexander and Ruby Sales, voices of the past and future of the Civil Rights Movement. Written by Dr. Vincent Harding, and delivered at The Riverside Church exactly one year to the day before Dr. King’s assassination, Beyond Vietnam is a moral agenda for America to address issues of racial justice, poverty, and war. Dr. King and Harding’s prophetic and prescient words are as urgently needed today as when they were first delivered.

 

Event is free.

Registration:

 

http://www.beyondthedream50.org/events/beyond-vietnam-50th-anniversary

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.

Sincerely,

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.
https://www.facebook.com/events/2248533725372747/

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.

Co-Sponsors:

NYU NLG
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: https://www.facebook.com/events/2248533725372747/)

 

March 3, 2017

Labor and Women’s Rights Movement Plan Ambitious Mass Protests to Fight Trumpism

February 22, 2017

FYI: 1-3pm Today: Protest at KCDA

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 9:32 am

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2017 9:32 AM
Subject: FYI: 1-3pm Today: Protest at KCDA

https://www.facebook.com/events/310169556052679/
Feet to Fire Campaign: NYC

Wednesday, February 22 at 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST
350 Jay St, Brooklyn, NY 11201-2908, United States

From Nicholas Heyward, Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward, Jr who was killed by NYPD in 1994:

District attorneys must be held accountable!!!!

Calling all parents and families of police murder, activists, freedom fighters and all the people who are completely fed up and sick and tired of the police getting away with the killings of our children and loved ones. They never are held accountable. We say enough with being failed by our local prosecutors, who continue to show and prove that they have no interest in getting the cops who kill our innocent children and loved ones.

On February 22nd in cities across the country we will join P.O.S.T. (Protect Our Stolen Treasures) for a day of outrage. Parents and families in New York City whose loved ones have been murdered by the NYPD and who have never received any form of justice or #accountability for our murdered children will join in as one united family. Outraged at this nationwide epidemic, we have had enough of being lied to by prosecutors, who help to protect the killer cops instead of protecting and getting justice for our murdered children.

Enough is enough and it is time to hold these district attorneys responsible.

Just look at the numbers of innocent lives in New York stolen by these killer cops, with almost never any form of prosecution or accountability.

We ask you to come stand with the families in New York along with the supporters and freedom fighters.

In 2017 we will no longer tolerate or allow these kinds of injustices to continue.

Join us on February 22nd @ the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office @1pm to start the five-borough protest of failed prosecutors never holding the police accountable.

To all district attorneys: DO YOUR JOB OR LEAVE OFFICE!

_______________________________________________

Some of the participating organizations: The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Faith & Social Alliance, Mothers Cry For Justice, Justice For Stolen Lives, People Over Profits San Diego, The National Stolen Lives Families Tour, Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), San Diego Chapter Black Panther Party, Native Lives Matter, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar Clark, Justice 4 Marcus Golden (Twin Cities, MN), Malcolm X Center, Black Lives Matter local chapter, South Carolina Stolen Lives (South Carolina)

Live coverage: https://www.facebook.com/edward.rhymes/posts/10202742371437594

Actions in other cities:
Detroit, MI: https://www.facebook.com/events/402473880104310/
Greenville, SC: https://www.facebook.com/scstolenlives/posts/1745708549077557
San Diego, CA: https://www.facebook.com/events/1882979388587253/

February 18, 2017

Talking to New Yorkers Who Went on Strike to Protest Trump

Vice

Talking to New Yorkers Who Went on Strike to Protest Trump

PV

“I’m just really sad for the country and I want to register my dissent wherever possible.”

Ever since Donald Trump’s inauguration, protests have been cropping up in America’s large cities, as one vulnerable population after another voices opposition to the new president’s discriminatory policies and rhetoric. In late January, when Trump issued his executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the US, demonstrators swarmed the nation’s airports to show solidarity with those caught up in the ban. Two weekends ago, New York’s Yemeni and LGBTQ communities held separate rallies. Thursday marked a “Day Without Immigrants,” as Latinos and immigrants stayed home from work to demonstrate how much the country relied upon them and their labor. And on Friday, a nationwide general strike brought anti-Trumpers out of the offices and workplaces to the streets.

The action, known as #F17 for the date, was organized by a number of groups, including one called Strike4Democracy, and included more than 100 events in towns and cities across the country. The idea was simple: Go on strike and participate in a day of action from 1 to 8 PM. Those who couldn’t take the whole day off to protest were encouraged to spend their lunch breaks at a rally.

The National Lawyers Guild organized the first rally I attended in New York. These are the lawyers who help protesters navigate the law if they are detained by police—I know the group’s work and have stayed connected with the NLG since 2015, when I was arrested while covering a Freddie Gray march in Baltimore for VICE.

From 1 to 3 PM, about 200 people rallied in front of the Manhattan Supreme Court. Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, spoke to the crowd: “We’re not accustomed to being the law and order guys. But that son of a bitch is turning us into the law and order guys. And we’re telling him that nobody, especially him, is above the law. So we’re going to hold him accountable, we’re going to stand with the people.”

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, the president of the NLG, took the megaphone said, “We live in, and are from, these communities—it is our communities that are also under attack and we are willing to lend out titles, our positions, and our skills in defense of who we are and where we come from.”

I took Bannan’s portrait in front of the courthouse and asked her how people looking to become active in advocacy can participate. “Anyone can be a legal observer,” she told me. “On NLG.org you can sign up for training, which means that you can observe and document the interaction between law enforcement and the people at rallies and protests, spaces that are likely to become increasingly criminalized.”

(From left) Helena Sarber, Stephanie Olszewski, and Stephanie Johanssen

I also met three Global Justice Center Employees. Stephanie Johanssen told me, “I’m a human rights lawyer from Germany and I feel quite passionate about the rule of law being upheld. No matter who the government is, no one, even the president, is above the law.”

Micheleen C. Karnacewicz is a corporate finance lawyer who had to close her practice due to health reasons. She came to the rally to offer her knowledge and experience. “This is about human dignity, human rights, human potential—we all have that,” she told me. “But if we don’t have representation and support, none of us can survive.”

Adan Soltren (right) is a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society, where he is a part of the Attorneys of Color Caucus. “We need all hands on deck to fight for our clients, for our communities, for justice, for the principles our democracy were founded on,” he said.

Jane Sampeur (left), also with the Attorneys of Color Caucus, told me, “Today we are organizing a lawyers’ resistance. We want to make sure that lawyers are participating in the struggle and the resistance to oppose these racist Trump policies. We want to make sure that we’re not leaving our communities hanging. I want to make sure I’m in a position to help protect my community.”

Around 3 PM I headed to Washington Square Park, where strike participants and dissenters of all kinds were partaking in a rally.

Some students linked arms and chanted anti-Trump slogans.

“This is a very integral part of the First Amendment,” said Richard L. Entrup. “When totalitarianism encroaches on us I have the humanistic instinct to rise up.”

“I came out to show my outrage and my disappointment that somebody who is so un-American was elected president,” said Erica Zurer, a retired Brooklynite. “I’m just really sad for the country and I want to register my dissent wherever possible too.”

An easel was set up with free paints to allow demonstrators a different way to express their feelings.

“I try to take part in every way that I possibly can at every occasion. Like all of my colleagues, friends, and family I’m horrified by what has happened and in shock. I think we all need to express ourselves to overturn the tragedy that is happening in our country,” said Amy Yoes, an artist. “We’ll keep going, even though we all have busy lives. I think this is the most important moment of my political life and I think it’s crucial for us to all stand together and defeat this travesty.”

February 16, 2017

FYI: 5-8pm Today: Rally to #FreeDaniel and Stop ICE Raids

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2017 9:42 AM
Subject: FYI: 5-8pm Today: Rally to #FreeDaniel and Stop ICE Raids

https://www.facebook.com/events/1811671739072219/

Thursday, February 16 at 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST

Image may contain: 14 people, text

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Varick Street Federal Building) 201Varick Street #5, New York, NY 10014

The Trump administration has continuously attacked immigrant communities. This past week there have been hundreds of arrests by ICE, spreading fear and panic throughout our communities all over the country. Most recently, Daniel Ramirez Medina was taken into custody despite being a DACA recipient. This Thursday at 5pm, we rally in front of the Department of Homeland Security Building to demand that ICE #FreeDaniel and stop #ICERaids operations and arrests that are targeting everyone and tearing families falling apart

When: Thursday, February 16th, 2017 at 5 PM

Where: U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Varick Street Federal Building)
201 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014

This will be a legal, peaceful and nonviolent demonstration with participation from the following organizations and allies:
Make the Road NY
United We Dream
New York Communities For Change
Center for Popular Democracy
VOCAL-NY
Alliance for Quality Education
32BJ
New York Immigration Coalition
Resist Here
CCNY Dream Team
Lehman Dream Team
Staten Island Dream Coalition
Working Families Party
NYC Anti Violence Project
Queer Detainee Empowerment Project
Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS
Communities for Police Reform
Taxi Workers Alliance
NYCLU
Cabrini Immigrant Services
Laino Justice PRLDEF
The Door
Urban Youth Collaborative

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