Lurie Daniel Favors
“We who believe in Freedom cannot rest!” – Ella Baker
In the borough of Brooklyn, there were communities who struggle with racial discrimination and whose civil rights were consistently violated. Whether it was severe racial violence in policing, voting rights violations, or discrimination within the school system, these community members faced a litany of injustices that remained unresolved for generations.
Though many in the community worked to resolve these and other issues, there were simply too many elements for small groups of individuals to address in a meaningful, systematic way. The community needed a justice institution that could bridge legal action, legislative policy, research and advocacy.
Believers in justice, like yourself, decided to take a new approach. A group of activist attorneys, community organizers and policy experts came together and created a community-based legal organization that would specialize in addressing these and other racial justice issues. With the help of many supporters like you, in 1986, this group created the Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) at Medgar Evers College, CUNY to serve as an institutional responder to these social justice wrongs. CLSJ was designed to be an organization that:
• Provides quality legal advocacy, trainings, and research services in a personal manner to people of African descent and other disenfranchised communities; and
• Helps these Brooklyn residents to fight for their cultural, economic, political, and social rights.
The CLSJ team immediately began working on many of the community’s most pressing concerns.
• CLSJ worked in coalition to challenge many abusive police practices. CLSJ successfully helped to revolutionize the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and forced the CCRB, to be a truly civilian agency and to better represent civilian interests. By hosting “know your rights” and other multi-year education campaigns, CLSJ helped to train community residents to engage with police in ways that minimized the risks of police abuse. After a long period of persistence, CLSJ was ultimately successful in advocating for the creation of a special prosecutor to address police involved killings of civilians.
• CLSJ used the Voting Rights Act to address many of the most pervasive voting rights violations. As a result of a successful legal action, decrepit voting machines were replaced with working ones, poll workers were required to be properly trained, voting materials started being printed in their proper languages and the Board of Elections slowly began following some of the voter protection laws that they’d previously ignored. To thwart racial gerrymandering in redistricting, CLSJ successfully went to court in 1991 and 2001, and in 2011 was a co-creator of the Unity Maps for fair redistricting for New Yorkers of color.
• CLSJ took an aggressive stance in defense of children and families from these targeted communities. By going to court, CLSJ was able to ensure that families, including immigrant parents, were properly alerted in their language that child removal legal proceeding were being considered by ACS, and fought for these families to receive local support services to avoid child abuse and neglect. CLSJ was a leading voice in legal battles designed to ensure all of Brooklyn’s children received a well-resourced and appropriate education. CLSJ trained thousands of Brooklyn parents to be advocates and leaders in the public schools.
CLSJ has worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to implement a progressive vision for a more just, equitable and fair Brooklyn community. We have advocated, in partnership with community members, to impact issues like police reform, equity in public education, housing/employment discrimination, immigration, child welfare, community economic development, and U.S. human rights violations. CLSJ’s values are the same as those that drove the Civil Rights and continuing liberation movements: we employ the necessary courage to confront society’s most challenging issues with creative and innovative community-based collaborations, grounded in an honesty and integrity driven approach to racial justice. We are dedicated to empowering Brooklynites of African descent and the disenfranchised to secure freedom and recognition for our collective humanity. We’re only legal racial justice organization focusing on issues affecting Black New Yorkers and as such, CLSJ is a focal point for progressive activity.
Yet, the battles are far from over. Brooklynites live in an era of increasing racial tension and a tumultuous political environment. Rather than embracing voter equity, many powerful forces are working feverishly to suppress voting rights. Instead of moving towards a policing system free of racial bias, there are many pushing to increase the militarized presence of police in communities of color. While many litigation battles on quality education were won, the implementation of equitable school solutions remains aspirational. CLSJ and our community partners will forge on—and we need your help, now more than ever: because “we who believe in Freedom cannot rest!”
Parents and children are invited and encouraged to get involved.
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