Center for Civil Rights Newsletter

Center for Civil Rights Newsletter: Tuesday, December 21, 2010

About the Newsletter

The Center for Civil Rights newsletter is a publication about our work to further civil rights in North Carolina and throughout the South. In addition, the newsletter contains information regarding employment and pro bono opportunities; civil rights conferences and events at Carolina Law and beyond; and notable civil rights news and developments. If you currently are not receiving this newsletter and would like to subscribe, please email Benita N. Jones at civilrights@unc.edu.

A Message from the Directors

Happy Holidays from the Center for Civil Rights! 2010 has been a year of changes and challenges for the Center. Tragically, we lost our friend and colleague Ashley Osment in May. Our Founding Director, Julius Chambers, retired to Emeritus status in June. Ashley and Julius continue to inspire us by their example and their indefatigable commitment to justice.

We continue to engage in the struggle for racial justice and equality across the state. Our Educational Advancement and Fair Opportunities program is challenging segregative student assignment policies and practices in Pitt County and is examining the impacts of segregated school districts in Halifax County. In Wake County, the Center has helped coordinate a state Open Meetings lawsuit and a Title VI complaint with the U.S Department of Education. The Community Inclusion and Economic Development program assisted two excluded communities in stopping the location of environmentally harmful waste facilities in their neighborhoods, settled a major fair housing case, and assisted another excluded community in securing funds to remove abandoned and dilapidate housing and plan a community garden.

We also recruited and hired a new staff attorney, Elizabeth Haddix, and a new Community Development Attorney Fellow, Peter Gilbert. Both have proven to be vital assets to the mission and vision of the Center. We also worked with and mentored dozens of pro bono law students and interns this year, hoping to encourage their commitment to civil rights and social justice law.

Of course, many challenges lie ahead. As you know, funding to support our work is critical. Although the Center is part of the law school's education, research and service mission, we must raise our program expenses and salaries from grants and donations. As we continue to seek new grant and foundation opportunities, we are also hoping that individuals and organizations that share our vision of civil rights and social justice can help us continue this work. If you are interested in learning about how you can help support the Center, please contact Senior Managing Attorney Mark Dorosin at 919.843.7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu. You may also make a secure online donation. To ensure your gift is forwarded to the Center for Civil Rights, please be sure to designate the fund by using the drop down menu to select "Center for Civil Rights Current Use (2741)".

Once again, all of us at the Center wish you and your family happy holidays, and a new year that "bends toward justice."

Professor Charles E. Daye, Henry P. Brandis Professor of Law

The Docket

UNC School of Law honors the career of Julius L. Chambers

Center for Civil Rights director Professor Julius L. Chambers was honored by UNC School of Law and the Center during two major events this fall. On November 1-2, 2010, over 250 attorneys, advocates, activists and scholars gathered in Chapel Hill, NC to celebrate Professor Chambers' civil rights legacy at "The Unfinished Work": Advancing New Strategies in the Struggle for Civil Rights. This national conference featured inspiring plenary sessions and in-depth breakout workshops that tackled the "unfinished work" of eliminating discrimination in education, housing, voting rights, employment and criminal justice. There were also special sessions focusing on organizing, new media and advocacy strategies to address these issues.

A special highlight of the conference was the Tribute Reception honoring Professor Chambers and S. Ashley Osment, the Center's Senior Attorney, who passed away on May 28, 2010 after a three-year struggle against ovarian cancer. To honor Ashley's advocacy skills and her commitment to training the next generation of civil rights lawyers, the Center hosted a law student writing competition. Two UNC Law students, Tessa Benjamin (2L) and Brandi Jones (3L), were presented with the first annual Ashley Osment Student Writing Award for their papers on current civil rights and social justice struggles relevant to North Carolina today.

On December 10, 2010, nearly 200 family, friends and colleagues again assembled in Chapel Hill, NC for a gala to celebrate Professor Chambers' far-reaching career. The evening began with a special video message from President Barack Obama praising Professor Chambers for his tireless efforts to secure justice for all Americans. Gala attendees heard greetings from North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue and were inspired by after-dinner remarks about the ongoing importance of the Center's work from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The evening ended with Jane DiRenzo Piggot, chair of the Center's Advisory Board, announcing the launch of the $10 million endowment campaign to sustain the Center's work.

Julius L. Chambers gives remarks at "The Unfinished Work" Conference Reception, November 1, 2010.

More Information

"Lincoln Heights Spared" Roanoke Rapids waste transfer station will not be located in this historically African American community

On December 7, 2010, the City of Roanoke Rapids, NC, voted to remove the Lincoln Heights community from consideration as a site for a new waste transfer station. The Center for Civil Rights has been working closely with Lincoln Heights and the NC Environmental Justice Network since the city began considering the neighborhood for a new waste management facility. As community leader Florine Bell remarked "If we had not been out opposing this, it probably would not have reached this conclusion. As far as the future goes, we are hopeful some type of positive community development will begin to take place in this under-served community."

Lincoln Heights is a low-wealth African American community bordered by Roanoke Rapids on three sides, but excluded from the city and access to city services, as well as an electoral voice in local government. It has been the location for at least three of Roanoke Rapids' municipal landfills in the past five decades, and has suffered these environmental hazards along with the historic underdevelopment and denial of services characteristic of other excluded communities. The community has repeatedly sought annexation by the city, to no avail. Preventing the construction of the waste transfer station in this already burdened community is one step toward full inclusion; the Center will continue to work with Lincoln Heights toward cleaning up past environmental hazards, removal of dilapidated housing, affordable housing development, provision of municipal services, and annexation.

Mark Dorosin, Center for Civil Rights; Naeema Muhammad, organizer with the N.C. Environmental Justice Network; and Florine Bell, pastor and leader in the Lincoln Heights Community at a November 29, 2010 organizing meeting to stop the waste transfer station.

Read more about the waste transfer station

U.S. Department of Education begins investigation of civil rights complaint against Wake County Schools

The U.S. Department of Education started its investigation of the Title VI complaint against the Wake County Board of Education filed by the State Conference and the Wake County branches of the NAACP, NC H.E.A.T. (Heroes Emerging Among Teens), and Southeast Raleigh High School student Quinton White. On December 7, 2010, investigators from the Office for Civil Rights visited Wake County to conduct initial meetings with the School Board, the complainants and community members who have been impacted by discriminatory student disciplinary and assignment policies. The Department will make additional visits to investigate the complaint and communicate with parents, students and other community leaders about the Board's actions.

The complaint, filed in late September with the help of the Center, other North Carolina advocacy organizations and several private attorneys, alleges that the Board's student assignment and disciplinary policies have disproportionately impacted non-White students and have denied Black and Hispanic students access to educational resources. In particular, the complaint challenges the discriminatory intent and impact of the student reassignments approved by the Board in April 2010. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the Board from using federal education funding in a discriminatory manner, and a negative outcome from this investigation could jeopardize the district's federal funding allotment. Read the Title VI complaint.

Read the News and Observer's coverage of the Department of Education's visit and investigation.

North Carolina hosts National NAACP Daisy Bates Educational Summit

The NAACP held its Daisy Bates Educational Summit in Raleigh on December 2-4, 2010. Workshops included strategy sessions on organizing for fair school discipline, teacher quality, and redistricting and school board elections. The two plenary sessions over the weekend focused on the organization's national education agenda. Center Staff Attorney Elizabeth Haddix spoke at the final plenary session entitled "Fighting Re-segregation and Promoting Desegregation" about the spectrum of segregation across the state evidenced in Halifax, New Hanover, Wayne, Wake and Mecklenburg Counties.

Read more about the Daisy Bates Educational Summit.

Leandro hearing unites community leaders, advocates

On December 17, 2010, attorneys and education advocates from around the state gathered in Raleigh, NC for a hearing in the ongoing Leandro litigation (Hoke County Board of Education v. NC). Department of Public Instruction (DPI) staff testified on how the state plans to use federal Race to the Top grant funding, test scores from the 2009-10 school year, and strategies to help students testing below grade level. Several Halifax County residents were present to hear a status report on DPI's efforts to raise academic achievement in Halifax County Public Schools. The district is in year two of a court-ordered three-year intervention plan to ensure all students in the district receive a Leandro compliant "sound basic education".

The Center plans to release a report in January 2011 that broadly looks at education across Halifax County. In addition to addressing how the DPI intervention plan impacts students and families, the forthcoming report will examine how the existence of two other school districts in the county-Weldon City Schools and Roanoke Rapids City Schools-impacts the outcomes for all students in the county. The Halifax County and Weldon districts are predominantly black, while the Roanoke Rapids district is predominantly white and has the highest level of academic achievement among the three. The Center and many Halifax residents believe that addressing the historic racial isolation and segregation in these three districts is a necessary first step to improving educational equity in the county.

Read the notice for the December 17, 2010 hearing.

Election Protection hotline helps voters find polls, resolves poll issues

On November 2, 2010, the Center and the UNC Pro Bono Program coordinated, staffed and managed the North Carolina call center for the national non-partisan Election Protection hotline. Election Protection provides information and assistance to voters to help ensure they are able to effectively exercise their right to vote. The Center has helped coordinate the North Carolina call center since 2004. This year, 44 students took part in a comprehensive election law training session, and then volunteered to staff phones from 6:00 a.m. through 8:00 p.m. The UNC School of Law Career Services staff graciously volunteered the use of their offices and space to house the call center. Over 200 calls were answered by students who, with support from the Center, UNC Pro Bono Program staff and volunteer attorneys, helped resolve voter questions about polling sites, voter registration, provisional balloting, identification requirements, absentee ballots and voter intimidation. Students were energized and engaged by the process, which was an important opportunity for Center staff to work directly with students and incorporate social justice and civil rights advocacy more directly into their law school experience. The Center is developing a summary report detailing patterns of election problems reported to the hotline, as well as proposals on how to address these issues.

Read more about Election Protection 2010.

UNC Law Students Lorea Stollard and Jeff Lakin answer calls at Election Protection 2010.

Construction begins for the next phase of sewer infrastructure in Jackson Hamlet

Jackson Hamlet, a predominantly African American, unincorporated community of 300 residents, is almost completely surrounded by the Moore County towns of Pinehurst and Aberdeen. The Center has been working with the community for over five years on a range of issues related to the community's exclusion from Pinehurst, including access to basic public services. With assistance from Center attorneys and in collaboration with Pinehurst officials, Jackson Hamlet residents secured CDBG funding in 2007 to extend sewer to one-third of its homes. Phase I was completed in spring 2009 and 51 households were connected to public sewer.

This month construction began on Phase II of the sewer project. When completed later this winter, the majority of remaining Jackson Hamlet residents will also have public sewer service. The Center will continue to work with the community to ensure that all residents are ultimately provided access to sewer service and on projects related to dilapidated housing, economic development, and possible annexation and political inclusion.

UNC Law Students draft documents for elderly and low-wealth clients

Over Fall Break, the Center for Civil Rights partnered with the UNC Pro Bono Program and Legal Aid-Pittsboro to send 20 students to Richmond County and Moore County as part of the fourth Wills Project trip. Over the course of two days, the students served 41 clients and drafted and executed 122 documents including wills, advance directives, and health-care powers of attorney. Several individuals served are also residents of the Center's client communities in the area. The project addressed two of the Center's key missions: to help preserve wealth in minority communities by preventing land-loss and to develop the next generation of civil rights lawyers. As second year student Maria Rutecki wrote, "I was honored to be writing legal documents for a woman who devoted her life to others and wanted to share what was left. When my first client signed the three documents we created for her-documents that would make her passing easier and give her the power to decide how she would leave this life-her face lit up with gratitude and relief. I will not forget that smiling face or how happy and proud I was to have helped put that smile there."

Carol Henry, the President of Jackson Hamlet Community Action, one of the Center's long-time clients, with her daughter Lydia, reviews her will with the help of pro bono student Danielle Gonderinger.

In the News

Calendar Call

  • February 12, 2011 - NC NAACP Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) March and Rally, Raleigh, NC
  • March 7-10, 2011 - Spring Break Wills Trip to Eastern North Carolina

Dicta

Applications for the 2011-2013 Educational Advancement and Fair Opportunities Fellowship Now Being Accepted

The UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights invites applications for its two-year Educational Advancement and Fair Opportunities Fellowship for recent law school graduates. Fellows work under the direct supervision of the Center's senior attorneys. Fellows conduct legal research, provide direct representation to Center clients, help coordinate community outreach and public education, supervise law students working with the Center, and draft legal and policy documents submitted to the courts, other advocacy organizations and the media.

Applicants must have a strong commitment to civil rights and social justice work, excellent verbal and written communications skills, be self-directed, have the ability to manage multiple assignments simultaneously, work confidently with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and exhibit promising leadership potential through professional experiences or law school activities.

Position Requirements: Graduation from an ABA accredited law school within the last two years (Class of 2011 graduates are eligible); and admission to a State Bar within one year of employment. North Carolina State Bar preferred, but not required.

Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, law school academic record, three references, and two writing samples (at least one should be legal in nature) to: Adrienne M. B. Davis, Director of Research, Community Services and Student Programs, UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights, Attention: Civil Rights Fellowship Program, CB#3382, Law School Annex, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3382, civilrights@unc.edu.

Application review will begin March 1, 2011. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Please do not fax application materials. Additional information is available on the Center's website.

Applications for 2011 Summer Internships Now Being Accepted

The Center provides summer internships for rising 2L and 3L law students. Summer interns assist with the Center's current case load, participate in special projects, and have opportunities to meet lawyers, advocates, and community leaders engaged in social justice work.

Interested law students should submit a cover letter, resume, and current (unofficial) law school transcript to: Adrienne M. B. Davis, Director of Research, Community Services and Student Programs, UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights, CB#3382, Law School Annex, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3382, civilrights@unc.edu. Please do not fax application materials. Application review and interview selection will begin on February 1, 2010.

Pro Bono Opportunities

There are ongoing pro bono opportunities at the Center for law students. Projects vary in time commitment and can often be completed off-site. If you are interested in volunteering for a project, please contact Mark Dorosin, Senior Managing Attorney, at 919.843.7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu.


To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, please email Benita N. Jones at civilrights@unc.edu.