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November 02, 2021 CHAIR COLUMN

November CRSJ Chair's Column

Thanksgiving falls within the month of November, and as a Section we have much for which to be grateful. We’ve had so many points of progress this past month. Thanks to all of you who contributed to our Section through the ABA Giving Day campaign last month. Currently we’ve raised nearly $8,000 for our Section which directly supports our programs. If you missed ABA Giving Day, there is still time – and need – for your charitable donation to the Section. We no longer receive full funding for all we do from the ABA, so this type of generosity is crucial to our Section. Thanks to our new members who have joined and our existing members who have renewed as your $45 dues revenue also helps to keep our Section afloat.

Thank you to Drucilla Stender Ramey, Estelle Rogers, and others for their tireless efforts to get the ABA to speak out on Texas statute SB 8. I’m happy to announce that on October 27, 2021, the ABA filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case, which will decide the law’s constitutionality. Dru found the ABA policy which the ABA General Counsel’s office agreed supported the filing of the brief. I’m so grateful that we all worked together to stand up for the rule of law in this way.

Thank you to Nadia Ahmad who requested, through our Section, that the ABA President write a letter to President Biden urging U.S. support for the United Nations resolution on the right to a healthy environment that will soon be before the United Nations for a vote. Nadia drafted the letter which the ABA Governmental Affairs Office is now forwarding to the President’s office for signature.

Thank you to Janel George for planning our first of a four-part series of webinars on Critical Race Theory (CRT). The first of these webinars aired as a start to our Fall Meeting and had close to 600 attendees watch it live. We are grateful for our partnership with the African American Policy Forum who will work with us to bring you the remaining three programs in our CRT series. Thank you to Engy Abdelkader, our newest Council Member, for spearheading the planning of the upcoming Social Justice Policy Summit and to our new Publications Chair, Ginny Sloan, who will endeavor to produce a publication from this summit as well as others from our initiatives. These are just highlights of all our members do each day to make our Section effective. I’m grateful to all of you.

Thank you all for attending the Section’s Fall Meeting. We accomplished much at that meeting. Those who attended the Welcome Reception heard our first ever Land Acknowledgement which we hope will provide an example for other ABA entities and attendees also enjoyed rousing rounds of legal trivia in an ice breaker which promoted inclusion and teamwork. The committees got to hear from and work with each other to create synergy around their common interests. We had an educational session on the proper use of gender-neutral pronouns. We heard an informative talk from Derek W. Black, the author of Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy, the book our Section is reading to interact with our theme of "Unity Through Civic Literacy". The talk kicked off this project. Please view the One Section, One Book explanation and follow the instructions to participate in this unifying initiative. We officially launched the Civil Rights Civics Institute. I’m grateful to everyone who has played and will play a role in this important outreach initiative this year. We conducted our Section business and elected a replacement Section Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates, Wendy K. Mariner. I want to thank everyone who applied for that position and participated in the election.

We heard about our upcoming Spring Meeting where all are invited to attend three days in person in San Pedro, CA on April 27-29, 2022. Our first day, we will visit the African American Museum, the Chinese American Museum, the Italian American Museum and the Mexican American Museum in an effort to more fully explore the intersectionality of discrimination and harassment. Since we will hold that meeting in conjunction with the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, our members will have the opportunity to join them on an optional tour of Skid Row, which they are planning, as a way to respectfully get proximate to the challenges homelessness presents and understand those challenges in a way that allows us to seek solutions that lawyers can bring to the table. We will all convene for a reception at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes where we will have time to discuss our experiences and thoughts from the day. The following days we’ll engage in outreach opportunities and roundtable discussions designed to allow us to help with economic justice issues. I truly hope that you will calendar this meeting and make every effort to join us. Please reserve your hotel room today.

While we have accomplished much, we still have more to do. I continually listen to the concerns of our members and appreciate each and every one of you! Here are some upcoming things we will do as we continue our quest for more diversity and inclusion within our section. The pronoun workshop we just had will become part one of a four-part series addressing diversity and inclusion issues. At following Section meetings, we will provide microaggression training, disability accommodation training, and implicit bias training, encouraging all our members to attend. We will then put links to each of those modules in the welcome letters we send to new members, have them available on our website, and offer them to the ABA Practice Forward project in order to promote those initiatives throughout the ABA. We will update our DEI policy. We will also update our bylaws with a mind to incorporating DEI principles. I’m thankful that those in the pipeline to be Chair all share my same commitment to DEI and together, we will head each of those efforts. We invite anyone who would like to participate in that process to reach out to us. We want to continue hearing from you as we work to make this Section the best it can be.

In conclusion, I’m grateful to work with so many wonderful people dedicated to making our nation and world a better place. I continually strive to make our section a safe place to air concerns, seeking to resolve them in a fair and gracious way for all. Thanks to all of you for joining with me in this endeavor.

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.