Center for Civil Rights Newsletter

Center for Civil Rights Newsletter: Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Message from the Directors

As the new year begins, we in the Center look forward to activities to encourage student interest and opportunities to further engage faculty - at the law school and across the University - in our ongoing education and community development work. Let me mention that the Center is co-sponsoring a panel discussion on the Community Reinvestment Act this month, expanding its successful community will-drafting project, participating in a program on multi-cultural lawyering, and continuing its work on the University's interdisciplinary Long Civil Rights Movement project. As always, there are numerous pro bono opportunities for students, including projects involving race, integration, and school assignment in an eastern NC school district; preserving heirs' property; and deploying legal strategies to protect a low-income minority community threatened by a highway project.

Our policy advocacy on the national involves helping coordinate a conference in November on school integration for policymakers and educators. At the state level, staff lawyers will continue to work with legislators and other advocacy organizations in advance of the 2010 short session on critical issues of non-exclusionary annexation, minority land loss through forced partition sales, improving fair housing, and quality, integrated education.

The state budget crises and the economic downturn have made financial support a critical issue for the Center. Our connection as an entity of the law school brings a wealth of benefits and educational resources to help the Center pursue its core missions. But our program and staff costs going forward will have to be funded by 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 to help support the Center, please contact Mark Dorosin at 919-843-7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu. You may also make a secure online donation at https://www.law.unc.edu/alumni/support/gift/givenow/. 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)".

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

The Docket

Center to Convene National Education Conference - On November 13, 2009, the Center for Civil Rights will join other leading civil rights organizations and university-based research centers to convene a national conference, "Reaffirming the Role of School Integration in K-12 Education Policy: A Conversation Among Policymakers, Advocates, and Educators". This conference will bring together a wide range of government officials to converse with educators, civil rights advocates, and scholars who support racially and economically integrated K-12 public schools. Participants will learn about racial and socioeconomic integration incentives in current and proposed federal policies, regulations and spending programs. Panelists and audience members also will discuss current on-the-ground integration efforts that sustain quality integrated schools and stable communities.

Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, will brief the audience about DOE policies and programs. Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide information about housing initiatives. Panel topics include:

  • Current Legal Guidelines Governing School Integration
  • The Federal Education Budget and Policies to Promote K-12 School Integration
  • School Integration Through Interdistrict Strategies
  • Programs Linking Housing Opportunity to Integrated Schools

For conference updates and to join the conference mailing list, please visit our website. Registration opens in early October.

The Conference is co-sponsored by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; the ACLU Racial Justice Program; Poverty & Race Research Action Council; the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights; The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School; the Center for Civil Rights at UNC School of Law; the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity at the Ohio State University; The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA; Howard University School of Law Education Rights Center; The Fair Housing Law Clinical Program at Howard University School of Law; Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at Berkeley Law School; Center for Understanding Race and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; and Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Center to Participate in Fall Break Pro Bono Wills Project - Building on the success of the UNC Eastern NC Spring Break Wills Project, the Center is once again partnering with Legal Aid of North Carolina and the UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program to bring a similar program to its client communities in Moore County. During the two day event, which will take place over the students' fall break, twenty UNC law students will set up two mobile legal clinics to draft wills and other advanced directives for low-income and elderly residents in the Jackson Hamlet, Midway, and Waynor Road communities. This project is especially important in light of the recent successes in securing annexation and other economic development projects to enhance the value of property in each community, and will provide critical legal services to these residents, enhance family land retention, and prospectively reduce ownership vulnerability amidst growing development pressures.

If you would like to make a donation or learn more about how you can support this project, please contact Paul Gardner, Associate Dean for Advancement, UNC School of Law. Paul can be reached at 919-843-6998 or epaulg@email.unc.edu. Donations can be mailed to Paul Gardner, School of Law Annex, 101 E. Weaver Street, Room 242, Campus Box 3382, Carrboro, NC 27510-3382.

Communities Strengthen Organizing Skills Through Training - On Saturday August 15, the Southern Moore Alliance of Excluded Communities (SMAEC) hosted a community organizing workshop for its constituent communities. Twenty-five residents from the Jackson Hamlet, Midway, and Waynor Road communities honed their community organizing and leadership skills through participation in activities designed to teach them how to identify and prioritize issues within their communities, as well as develop action plans that will build on the strengths of the community and energize its residents. Mrs. Cynthia Brown, a grassroots organizer and founder of The Sojourner Group, facilitated the day-long training. This workshop is part of a larger series of local and regional events hosted by SMAEC to raise awareness of municipal exclusion and build the capacity of excluded communities.

Annexation Reform Makes Progress, then Stalls in NC General Assembly - On July 23, 2009, the NC House of Representatives passed House Bill 524 - Annexation Omnibus Changes - by a vote of 83-31. Even though the state's involuntary annexation procedures dominated much of the conversation surrounding annexation reform, Center attorneys were able to bring to light the unique needs of low-wealth communities seeking annexation and secure meaningful statutory provisions that will open doors for their inclusion.

House Bill 524 lowers the signature requirement for voluntary annexation from 100% to 75% for low-income communities - defined as communities with 51% or more of the households living at or below 200% of the federal poverty thresholds. The bill also requires municipalities to annex communities that meet this signature requirement - a significant change from the discretionary language found in the current statute. House Bill 524 also addresses the issue of "doughnut holes" - excluded communities completely surrounded by municipalities - by permitting their annexation regardless of their ability to meet the statutory density requirements. Finally, the bill awards priority points in certain state grant applications for projects to provide water and sewer service to low-income residents in areas annexed by municipalities.

The NC General Assembly adjourned on August 11, 2009 without the Senate's consideration of HB 524 or other annexation reform legislation. The Center and its partners will continue to work with legislators during the 2010 short session to ensure that these provisions remain a part of the debate, discussion, and ultimately, any legislation considered next year.

Read House Bill 524.

Profile On...

Ms. Shanda Whitaker, Waynor Road Leader and Advocate - Much of the Center's work would not be possible without the leadership and energy of the dedicated members of the communities with which we work. One such individual is Ms. Shanda Whitaker, a lifelong resident of the Waynor Road community located in Moore County, NC. Unlike many young professionals who choose to venture away from home after college, Shanda returned to Waynor Road after graduating from NC State University, embraced her roots and brought her newly acquired skills and knowledge to a community in need.

Shanda is an active member of Waynor Road in Action, a 501(c)(3) organization created to further the goals of the Waynor Road community. As a result of her leadership, engagement and support of the organization's efforts, Waynor Road residents are in the final phase of a voluntary annexation by Southern Pines and the installation of public water and sewer service. Shanda was also appointed to serve on the Southern Pines Long Range Planning Committee, where she provides both leadership to the committee, as well as a voice for Waynor Road and other communities located in the Southern Pines extra-territorial jurisdiction.

There is no doubt among friends, family, and Center staff that Shanda's foray into public service has only just begun. This summer, Shanda was one of ten hand-selected candidates from across the state to participate in the NC Center for Women in Public Service's (NCCWPS) Women in Office Institute. The Institute prepares women to seek and serve in elected and appointed office through participation in workshops on campaigning, fundraising, public speaking, and interaction with the media. Following her graduation from the Institute Shanda said, "The Women in Office Institute provided a wealth of information, and I am sincerely appreciative for the opportunity to participate." Dana Jennings, NCCWPS CEO, commented, "Shanda's combination of ability and passion to serve will be the recipe for her excellence in any public service role she chooses."

Local newspaper features Shanda's accomplishments.

Learn more about the NC Center for Women in Public Service.

Calendar Call

UNC School of Law Centers to Host Panel Discussion on the Community Reinvestment Act -
On Thursday September 17, 2009, the UNC School of Law's Center on Banking and Finance, Center for Civil Rights, and Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity will host The Community Reinvestment Act: Center Stage to discuss the thirty-year history of the CRA, the debate about the role of the CRA in the subprime mortgage crisis, and how, if at all, the CRA should be modified in light of recent economic events. Panel participants will include Chris Kukla, Senior Counsel for Government Affairs for the Center for Responsible Lending, Peter Skillern, Executive Director of the Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina, and Paul Stock, Executive Vice President and Counsel to the North Carolina Bankers Association. The program will begin at 5:30 pm in Room 5042 at the UNC School of Law. The event is free and open to the public.

U.S. Department of Justice Title VI Conference - On July 20, Senior Attorney Mark Dorosin participated in a national Title VI conference hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice entitled Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the Legislation and Exploring Current Issues in Enforcement. Mark participated on the panel "Modern Techniques to Investigate and Prove Title VI Discrimination in the Provision of Services." The discussion, which featured Ann Joyner and Allan Parnell of the Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities, and attorney Reed Colfax from Relman & Dane, focused on the use of mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) data to prove discrimination in access to municipal services. Drawing on the Center's work in Moore County, Dorosin emphasized how the Supreme Court's ruling requiring proof of discriminatory intent in Title VI cases has undermined the statute's ability to reach ostensibly race-neutral practices that permanently freeze the discriminatory legacy of intentional residential segregation. Dorosin noted, "The intent standard fails to recognize how discrimination actually occurs today, erroneously suggesting that it is a deliberate, isolated occurrence, removed and remote from the racialized history of land use and development policies and practices in this country."

In the News

Center Director, Julius Chambers, Comments on the Race to the Top Fund - Center Director, Julius Chambers, along with other individuals working towards racially and economically integrated public schools, recently submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Education on the Race to the Top Fund. The letter highlights the proposed funding regulations silence on the "continuing importance of avoiding racial and economic segregation in public schools, and promoting voluntary school integration." The DOE will consider this and other comments on the 19 criteria that it proposes to use in awarding $4.35 billion to states under the regulation. The DOE expects to finalize the regulations by October or November 2009.

Read the letter submitted to the US Department of Education.

Dicta

Center Bids Farewell to Education Fellow - This month the Center bids a fond farewell to Leah Aden, our beloved 2007-2009 Education Fellow. During her two years at the Center, Leah has been an indefatigable advocate for underserved students in our nation's public schools. An avid scholar, Leah was the staff member we could count on to know what was happening in the courts, in Congress and in the classroom. While at the Center, Leah stepped up to direct some of the Center's major education work when her colleague, Senior Attorney Ashley Osment, was sidelined by a cancer diagnosis. Leah's talent was especially evident in the tremendously successful annual conference last April, Looking to the Future: Legal and Policy Options for Racially Integrated Education in the South and the Nation. Additionally, her work building relationships and a desegregation lawsuit in Pitt County, North Carolina, will have long-lasting implications for the quality of education for the thousands of students educated in Pitt County Schools. Leah's dedication to the cause of equality has been an inspiration to all of us at the Center. We wish her all the best as she moves on to new opportunities in New York City, where she will begin a prestigious Fried Frank fellowship that includes two years of work with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Center Welcomes New Education Fellow - The Center is thrilled to welcome Benita N. Jones as its 2009-2011 Education Fellow. A native North Carolinian, Benita is a 2000 graduate of the North Carolina School of Science & Math in Durham. She received her B.A. in political science from Yale University in 2004, and her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 2007.

Benita shared her many talents as an undergraduate at Yale by directing a non-profit that partners Yale students with disadvantaged public school students for free private music lessons. An accomplished violinist, Benita also participated in the program and taught violin to underserved students attending New Haven's public schools.

At Georgetown, Benita dedicated a significant amount of time to housing and community development issues, serving as a student attorney in Georgetown's Harrison Institute for Housing and Community Development, co teaching finance and entrepreneurship workshops for clinic clients, and providing legal counsel to housing cooperatives. After law school, Benita spent almost two years as an associate at Klein Hornig LLP in Washington, D.C., where her practice included the representation of housing authorities and non-profit developers in complex affordable housing financing transactions and economic development initiatives.

As the Center continues to strategize about how to overcome the dual barriers posed by school and housing segregation, we look forward to blending Benita's expertise on housing issues with her passion for education. Welcome Benita!

Center Receives Funding for Academic Year Internship - As a result of a federal grant secured by the School of Law, third year UNC law student Stephanie Horton has joined the Center for Civil Rights as a Research Assistant for the 2009-2010 academic year. Stephanie is no stranger to the Center having completed numerous pro bono projects over the course of her law school career and most recently, our 2009 summer internship program. As a result of her dedication to the Center and public service, having completed over 330 hours of probono work, Stephanie was recently named the UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program's Student of the Month for September. Welcome back Stephanie!

Applications for 2010 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 deadline is 5:00 p.m. October 2, 2009.

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 to work on a pro bono project, please contact Mark Dorosin at 919-843-7896 or dorosin@email.unc.edu.


To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, please email Sarah Krishnaraj at civilrights@unc.edu.