RWU Law has a tradition of celebrating the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday with a series of events and activities consistent with his dream of inclusiveness, and 2011 was no exception.
The week began with a “Day On,” where members of the RWU Law community are encouraged to celebrate the King Holiday by engaging in community services projects. This year’s service opportunity was a project with City Year, where over 400 volunteers participated in projects throughout Providence.
Tuesday featured a keynote address delivered by dynamic RI lawyer, Michael Evora, who has for almost a decade headed the RI Commission on Human Rights. Michael’s talk, “The Battle from Within: Ideological Changes in Civil Rights Practice,” focused on how the work of the Commission has changed in its 60 years of existence. Doing research in the archives, Michael identified a number of fascinating trends, including how the early complaints were typically resolved quickly and without the involvement of legal counsel, while these days institutional defendants are much more likely to “lawyer up,” resulting in longer and more contentious proceedings. Michael also pointed out how the mix of claims has changed, with more knotty issues arising now than historically. Racial discrimination is less likely to be obvious, and certainly a case like one where a pharmacist was fired because his religious beliefs precluded him from dispensing an abortion drug does not yield a simple resolution. Michael also spoke movingly about his personal experiences with homophobia, and his hope that this particular strain of discrimination will not be a part of the world our students will practice in. Here is a photo of some event participants.
Another aspect of MLK Week was an opportunity for students to watch a powerful movie, Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin. This film focused on how homophobia affected the work of this openly gay Civil Rights pioneer. Braving a snowstorm a dozen+ students watched the film and had a candid discussion, led by Professor Diana Hassel, on the intersection of gay and black rights.
I hosted a brunch to honor the newest African-American on the Rhode Island bench, Walter Stone. Besides being a partner at a leading firm (Adler Pollock & Sheehan), Judge Stone has an exemplary record of public service and has been an active participant in the mentoring program sponsored by our Multicultural Law Students Association. The Governor made a number of excellent appointments to the courts in recent years, none topping moving Walter Stone to the Superior Court. Here is a photo from that fun event.
Last but not least, we are very proud of 1L Ariel Carter, who was a speaker at her hometown’s celebration of MLK. The NewportPatch included coverage of Ariel’s speech in Newport, RI. We are very proud of you, Ariel!