Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Aiyana Stanley–Jones. Alton Sterling. These are some of the names of those who lost their lives too soon. These names have created conversations around racial inequality and the concept of freedom. These conversations have spilled into different parts of many people’s lives causing them to question how equality is achieved and through what avenues we can achieve it as a society.
#BlackLivesMatter has sparked conversations within professional communities and has caused some professionals to question whether or not their degrees shield them from brutality. (One of the things older generations tell black and brown children is that if they have a degree, no one can touch them. Is that true?) Specifically, there are multiple versions of this movement in the legal community: #Law4BlackLives, #BlackLawyersMatter, #NBLSAamINext, and other variations. Importantly, there have been conversations about what lawyers of color and those who are allies can do to help the social movement that’s affected, legal professionals.
Why should we care about these groups? They raise online awareness through their hashtags and they deliver information to their followers about their rights, what to do while protesting, and how to self-care. They help the general public and the legal professionals who are involved. They seem to really want to make change so support them in whatever way that you can.
Who is their target audience? For example, #Law4BlackLives was created after the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore through the Center for Constitutional Rights. What started as a two-day convention became a movement. They state in their values that they specifically want to build up the #BlackLivesMatter movement through their network of lawyers, law students, and legal workers of color. It seems that they are targeting these specific groups while also welcoming people who want to learn and be involved.
What do these groups aspire to do? Well, a common theme is visibility – the concept of being seen in order to spark conversation. That’s the beauty of these movements, exposing the commonality and frequency of certain types of oppression. These groups build community but they also provide resources for people to go to when they face these issues.
When is the right time for activism as a legal professional? Everyday. Whether it is stopping a person from making fun of someone because of their skin color or organizing town halls for people to voice their opinions, there is no act that is too small. If you need a place to go in order to understand how, look at these groups such as NBLSA for support. But, it is always important to remain true to yourself and to make sure that you are always comfortable in your activism because the care that you give to yourself is also important. Fighting for equality can become tiring.
Movements remind people that activism comes in different mediums. We are often placed into different professions or social categories (even though we should live our lives and not live by labels). These movements remind us that the struggles that we share should bring us together and that our voices are amplified by working for each other. These groups reiterate the notion that Black Lawyers in fact DO matter because Black Lives Matter.
We are all a part of the solution. We all have something to give. We are all-important. And when the sadness takes over and the happiness is drained out of you: Expecto Patronum.