Lacy L. Durham is in the Global Employer Services (GES) at Deloitte Tax, LLP and is an ERISA and Total Rewards subject matter expert that assists clients in developing their domestic and global ewards, compliance and tax strategy. She currently serves as Special Counsel for the Section's Social Justice Division.
Where are you from? How have your experiences here, or throughout your upbringing, influenced your passions and aspirations today?
I’m from small town north Louisiana and have lived in Dallas, TX since graduating law school on the heels of Hurricane Katrina. Life was pretty good as young child. In fact, I had what you would consider the picture-perfect, loving, two-parent, educated family. Then suddenly my mother died in a car accident. I was eleven and my sister was nine years old. Our once picture-perfect familiar situation quickly changed. We were instantly recharacterized before mom was even buried and society now considered us a liability. Nevertheless, every negative cultural stereotype and socioeconomic label that you could imagine was thrust upon me a child. In other eyes, I could be anything but a success. However, my father refused to let me be a statistic. He didn’t want those labels for us. He recognized the challenge of a widowed, young, Black male raising two daughters and heroically faced it head on.
My upbringing forced me be keenly aware of how prejudices, pervasive implicit biases, the social injustices can affect people. Those experiences ushered in my desire to be a lawyer because I resolved myself to see things from various perspectives and most importantly, be an advocate for those whose voice was otherwise silenced or diminished because of their circumstances.
What drives you?
I am wildly driven by my personal convictions and beliefs that I can leave this world better than how I found it. In addition, the desire to be the best version of myself and fulfill a sense of personal achievement. This motivates me to do meaningful and satisfying work to see changes in people’s lives.
What is one thing most people do not know about you that you feel they should?
I’m an avid explorer and traveler that deliberately goes beyond being a vacationer and tourist. I always spend time in local communities to better understand my privileges and engage in responsible travel. I am aware of my potential influence on a destination and look at ways they can improve civil rights and social justice issues that may be applicable to the local culture. My personal philosophy is to make an impact wherever and however you are. I believe that there is much good one person can do in the world and see firsthand that even the smallest acts of kindness can transform lives and it doesn’t always have to be of financial value. Sometimes its donating supplies to local schools, providing toiletries to help promote human dignity, intentionally shopping and buying locally from family-run establishments, taking tours with locals, or volunteering at orphanages or women’s shelters for a day. These experiences have given me a different perspective on how I advocate.
When you look back, what is it that you want your advocacy and professional career to stand for?
My advocacy and professional career should reflect a record that boldly embodies service, solutions, and fairness to all with an intentional lens of diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. I want to stand for someone who had the courage to leave it all on the table because I showed up fully, authenticity, and became a better person along the way. When I reflect, I want to be known as someone who will always take a stand for what is right and just; even if I must stand alone. I did all that I could, how I could, and “when I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'. – Emma Bombeck.
What is one issue which you care about or work most on and why?
Voter rights and election protection issues including the various forms of modern-day voting suppression and restrictions that ultimately leads to voter disenfranchisement. My passion for this issue is because for decades, activists have fought and died for the right to vote – which is the most important privilege in a democratic society. People deserve representation of their free choice and for their voices to be heard through a fair and just process. All voters must have an equal opportunity to vote and have that vote count. In addition, the integrity of the election process drives critical decisions around issues such as access to healthcare, quality education, fair and equal pay, infrastructure, housing, public safety, etc.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing this issue today?
The greatest challenge is dismantling historical systematic and systemic election rules that are often deeply rooted in implicit biases and blatant discrimination. In addition, the state laws for voting requirements and elections are always changing and are not uniform. For example, the state changes often include deadlines for registration, determination for eligibility, pay and training for election workers, election timing, polling locations, required identification, treatment of felons, alternative voting options, use of technology, and more. Plus, these challenges traditionally disenfranchise and suppress Black and Latinx communities at a higher percentage than others. We must continue to tackle these challenges, as I believe the right to vote is the single most important issue to overcome in order to move our democracy forward.
In what corners do you find the greatest support in propelling these issues you work on? In other words, who are your most frequent allies?
I’m grateful that I have been championed from people from all walks. I have strong support from advocates, allies, and accomplices that help me live out my life’s purpose. My biggest advocates and allies on issues dear to me have always been white women who have publicly supported and worked to raise awareness or end the issues even though they are generally not the target of the challenges. They have stood tall and ready to engage in activism in many ways.
Without question my biggest accomplices have been other women of color (from all races, ethnicities, and cultures), as well as other marginalized groups who have a unique connection to the issues. I find that they are most passionate about these issues as they have often walked the same path, just in different shoes and felt the same oppression. Other women of color have stood with me and not just for me by being instrumental in effectuating change.
What CRSJ project(s) are you working on? Or, what have you undertaken in CRSJ that you found the most rewarding to have worked on? Are there any upcoming events or projects you want us all to know about?
I’ve had the absolute honor of serving as Special Counsel to the Section's Social Justice Division, as well as serving on the 2021 Father Robert F. Drinan Award for Distinguished Service reception committee and the 2021 Thurgood Marshall Award Celebration committee.
I’m especially motivated by the laser-focused leadership of each of the committees under the Social Justice Division (Bullyproof, Environmental Justice, Economic Justice, and Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity). The reward is gaining a deeper understanding of prevalent issue areas and experiencing firsthand the dedication of the committees that really fuel of our Section. Likewise, it was a delight to honor past Section Chair C. Elisia Frazier, as the 2021 recipient of the Father Robert F. Drinan Award for Distinguished Service for her selfless dedication to the Section and lifetime commitment to civil rights and social justice advocacy. Her fortitude and record of service is unprecedented and one that I personally aspire to achieve.
You don’t want to miss the 2021 Thurgood Marshall Award Celebration, that will be held during 2021 ABA Annual Meeting on Friday, August 6, 2021. The virtual celebration will honor legendary civil rights leader Clarence B. Jones who served as advisor and lawyer to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Jones is a living legend and played a pivotal role in many events in the Civil Rights era, including assisting in the drafting of Dr. King’s momentous "I Have a Dream" address; acting as part of the successful defense team for the SCLC in New York Times v. Sullivan; contributing with Vincent Harding and Andrew Young to Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” address at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, and much more. You will leave with an renewed focus and inspired to continue to forge ahead in making advancements in civil rights, civil liberties and human rights.