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Are We Full of Contradictions?

Legal Aid Programs and Racial Justice Advocacy

Should anti-poverty advocates focus on racial justice advocacy? How do racial justice and anti-poverty advocacy intersect, and what barriers impede legal aid participation in that work? According to a survey conducted by NLADA, a large majority (88%) of legal aid advocates agreed that they have a role to play in tackling systemic racial bias. However, respondents were split on other questions, with some results showing a significant divide by race. This was particularly true when respondents were asked whether “addressing poverty will address racism.”

Are these responses contradictory? What do the differences mean for collaboration between legal aid and civil rights advocates? The Shriver Center sponsored a webinar on these topics on October 17, 2013.

Panelists:

Carol Ashley

Carol Ashley, Vice President of Advocacy, heads the Shriver Center’s Advocacy Program, which actively pursues justice and opportunity on a range of issues. She has a distinguished record in court and extensive experience representing community-based organizations and solving tough policy and systemic problems. As the president of Futterman, Howard & Ashley, she headed the firm’s civil rights and school equity practice and oversaw corporate and personnel matters. Her broad experience includes serving as lead counsel in federal education equity class action lawsuits and as an adjunct professor and clinical supervisor at Loyola University School of Law, Child Law and Education Institute.

Camille Holmes

Camille Holmes, Director of Leadership and Race Equity at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), leads NLADA's efforts to expand the capacity and commitment of public defense, civil legal aid and client advocates to promote race equity as part of the core strategies in their work. Her work at the national, regional, and local levels advances problem solving strategies for creating sustainable change in low-income and marginalized communities. Since joining the domestic legal aid community in 2001, she has promoted collaborations among civil legal aid, civil rights, racial justice and community-based advocates and developed conceptual frameworks to help advocates adopt community lawyering approaches, leadership skills, and racial justice advocacy approaches. Prior to her current position, Camille served as NLADA's Director of Training and Community Education. She came to NLADA from the Center for Law and Social Policy, where she worked as a senior staff attorney and co-director of the Project for the Future of Equal Justice. Camille formerly served as executive director of the Southern Africa Legal Services and Legal Education Project, as a corporate attorney at the D.C. law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr, and a law clerk for the Honorable Damon J. Keith on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bill Kennedy

Bill Kennedy has been the Managing Attorney of the Sacarmento office of Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) since 1990 and has a 38-year history of advocacy in legal aid programs. He has tried cases in 23 county federal, and state and federal appellate courts. His legal work has focuses primarily on civil rights, housing policy, and the nexus between the two. In recent years, he has moved his office to a community lawyering approach to delivery of services. He counseled local community groups on economic development including development of affordable housing, jobs, child care, and transportation. In Sacramento, he has provided the legal support for the development of more than 500 units of single-family homes affordable to families earning as little as $20,000 per year; the creation of eight child care centers in low-income neighborhoods; the creation of the most successful welfare-to-work one-stop centers in the region, placing participants into jobs averaging $9.50 per hour with benefits; the creation of highly successful community Earned Income Tax Credit projects linked to Individual Development Accounts; and the development of more than 290 transitional housing units, in some cases leveraging surplus federal properties to do so. He is one of the founding board members of Quinn Cottages, a transitional housing program designed by the homeless that has in the past five years successfully moved sixteen families from homelessness to home ownership. Mr. Kennedy is also one of the architects of the Race Equity Project, which seeks to put the tools of race conscious advocacy into the hands of community-level activists.

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