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August 29, 2021 CHAIR COLUMN

A Message from 2021-22 Section Chair Beth K. Whittenbury

Hello everyone! I’m pleased to send you the first of my planned monthly CRSJ Chair’s Columns. I’m looking forward to updating you on all that your Section is doing to advance social justice and support civil rights.

We’re off to a great start with our response to the crisis in Afghanistan. We’re putting together a rapid response program designed to apprise you of the situation and let you know what you can do to help. As we’ve worked with other entities across the ABA to put the program together under the leadership of Dan Appleman, we’ve realized that our rapid response webinar will likely kick off a series exploring all the legal ramifications of the unfolding situation in Afghanistan. We’re so pleased to partner with so many committed entities within the ABA to respond to this crisis.

I previously provided you, via our Connect system, a letter forwarded to me by Dru Ramey from the Alliance for International Women’s Rights (AIWR) which offers one way you can help women lawyers and judges in Afghanistan right now. That message is re-posted at the bottom of this column in case you missed it the first time. Also, ROLI is putting together a list of resources for lawyers wanting to help. We will let you know when that’s available for your use.

We are also mindful of the situation in Haiti. Janel George has been working with the ABA’s Commission on Immigration, partnering on a webinar which will explain the situation and provide opportunities for lawyers looking to help. As you look for ways to assist, please visit our Civil Rights Connection Platform which lists organizations with pro bono opportunities related to civil rights which was established by Immediate Past Chair Angela Scott and spearheaded by member Michael Bergmann. All of this work could not be done without the tireless support of our staff who rise to every occasion and make it possible for us to respond so quickly and effectively.

To start off our year in accordance with our theme: “Unity Through Civic Literacy,” I ask you to join me in reading “Schoolhouse Burning” by Derek Black. Reading this book together will give us a common frame of reference as we work on our Civil Rights Civics Institute in which we are answering student questions on civil rights. Please consider ordering your copy today so we can discuss the book as the year goes on.

As our premiere outreach program this year, we ask that you offer to work on answers to the incredibly insightful questions we’ve received from students around the nation. To date, we have received 173 questions! So, we welcome all of you to get involved in responding to these students, many of whom come from traditionally underserved communities. Please email our volunteer member spearheading this initiative, Linda Herr, at [email protected] to see how you can help with this project.

Our 2022 Thurgood Marshall Award (TMA) Selection Committee, chaired by Richard Pena, has already been hard at work. They chose Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP-LDF, as this year’s TMA recipient. I’m happy to report that she was thrilled to accept! We are excited to have such a worthy recipient confirmed so early and hope that you will all help us spread the word.

I look forward to a year where we all work harmoniously as one unstoppable team, making a difference and advancing the cause of justice wherever and however we are called upon to do so. I encourage you to get to know each other, reaching out to those you’ve not met before. Our Section should lead the way on diversity, equity and inclusion. Each of us plays an essential role in making that goal a reality.

Please feel free to contact me with any ideas or thoughts you may have. I’m committed to remaining accessible to you this year. You can call or text me at 310-613-2102 or email me at [email protected]. Please note that I’m on the west coast and so work in the Pacific Time Zone.

I send my love to you all and I’m so humbled to act as your Chair this year.

All the best,

Beth K. Whittenbury
Chair, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice

Beth K. Whittenbury is the 2021-22 Chair of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and past leader of the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk. Currently, she is the Principal at Beth K. Whittenbury & Associates.