#Law4ThePeople Convention

Being in the South for this year’s #Law4thePeople Convention was a fitting reflection point on how the NLG’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s still resonates with members and supporters alike.  However, it was clear from the convention’s beginning that the NLG as a national force and its regional offices are in a different landscape from that of 60s era radical lawyering.  With openly fascist attacks against our communities and myriad oppressive policies sanctioned by the federal government, NLG is looking to find and maintain its footing as a space for radical attorneys and legal workers fighting for the just society they believe in.  

Refreshing to hear was the Keynote Address by Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson from the Highlander Center.  It was a re-centering of Highlander’s Movement work in the South through open dialogue with attendees about our vision of utopia; not just a vision of a world without cops or prisons, but a meditation on what would exist in the world we are fighting to make a reality.  This is a fundamental mapping that NLG members could build on and use as a guide in their Movement work.  And in that framing Ash-Lee called all NLG attorneys and legal workers to action: a call for attorneys to listen to the people on the ground who are on the front lines.  In doing so I am asking myself right now what I can make a commitment to do, to offer, or to learn that will support communities when they are under attack.  If you were in the audience, you know that Ash-Lee offered to receive our personal commitments if folks emailed her directly with a timeline of how you plan to achieve your goal as an individual or collectively.  

The opening night set the tone for the rest of the convention for me.  I am deeply appreciative of all the work that NLG fold did to organize the various panels and presentations.  However, I personally gained so much more love and insight from the hallway conversations and people connections made when waiting for an event to start or after its end.  It truly was in the brief but heartfelt meetings and conversations that NLG members are able to connect with and exchange ideas about their work.  It is in those moments that NLG members had the privilege of sharing a brief experience, a goal, a plan to meet again, or connect and learn how vastly different radical lawyering and movement work looks from place to place.  These moments are all too brief for the power they have in building our community as NLG attorneys and legal workers.  It is through these connections that each individual person there can start to feel more invested in community work happening in different regions across the US or across the globe.  And I think we already have these values.  It was seen in the award ceremonies for Judy Somberg who received the Debra Evenson “Venceremos” Award, the MacArthur Justice Center and Louisiana Office that received the Law for the People Award, Azadeh Shahshahani who received the Ernie Goodman Award, Leoyla Cowboy who received the Legal Worker Award, and Michael Podgurski who received the C.B. King Award.  All of these awardees have shown relentless dedication to community work and I am glad we have the annual convention as a space to show gratitude and support for such fierce fighters.  But we cannot stop there.

I wish to see #Law4thePeople strive to have even more community organizers and Movement comrades in the room.  These opportunities to connect to people on the ground are absolutely necessary to keep pushing the NLG to become a space that can heed the call to action effectively and authentically. Next year I hope to see more folks from the radical south, more folks from indigenous communities, more folks from black liberation spaces.  These various and intersecting identities need to be consciously invited and made home in NLG spaces.  As an anti-racist and anti-imperialist body, we need to make our utopian vision come to life within the space we call our legal and radical home.  We may not be functioning as the legal arm of any particular Movement as we have seen NLG attorneys do in years past. Nevertheless, the NLG’s value in people centered work has the power to revolutionize how we commit to the work.    As Leoyla Cowboy said when accepting the Legal Worker award, “…we have to take care of each other and we have to love each other”.  Providing a space, whether it is through our yearly convention or being an active chapter in a region of the country where there are no other leftist lawyers, allows us to openly take care of our comrades and show love and respect to each other’s work and community. 

Written by Rebecca Amdemariam 


Below is a few additional photos from the convention. 

NLG Group Photo

Image 2 of 3