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In The Field



Update from a Human Rights Lawyer in Training

February 15, 2016 Twitter

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Valentine's Day! On this day of love, I thought I would take a moment to update you on my life in New York.  In sum, I'm happy, healthy, and headed in an exciting direction!

After finishing an enriching first year of law school, I left New York to head to the Middle East, where I lived in Palestine for three months.  I began by visiting two of closest friends from my college years, Alex and Andy (Hemphill, PLC '10), who were teaching at the Pioneers Baccalaureate School (PBS), and English private school in the North of Palestine (Quick plug: if you know people who want to teach abroad and who have completed college, have them consider PBS).

Andy (left) and Alex (right) and I in Nablus, Palestine

Last summer, I interned at Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P).  DCI-P is a children's rights organization working throughout the entirety of the occupied territory: West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.  I worked on the issue of children in military detention.  Nearly all the children were boys and most were arrested for alleged stone throwing. The military justice system subjects children to many human rights abuses, including verbal and physical abuse and frequently solitary confinement, and does not provide any measure of proper procedure in the military courts. It is no way to treat a child.  Here is a link to an interactive story about children's experiences in military prison.  Some of writing will be published in a report that should be released soon! If interested, let me know and I will pass the report along.

I came to Palestine through Palestine Works, a summer legal fellowship that brings about two dozen law students to the region to work on diverse areas of social justice.  Over the summer, my parents visited me.  Along with Alex, we traveled throughout the West Bank and Israel.  It was a great trip!

Mom, Dad and I on top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem

I returned to New York, where I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and began my second year of law school at NYU.  This year, I am doing my practical experience in a clinic, where I get to work on real life legal situation under the supervision of practicing lawyers. I am in the human rights clinic, the Global Justice Clinic (GJC), where I work on issues of racial justice.

This fall, my clinic project was on the topic of police brutality. Although just 13.2% of our country’s population is Black, more than 33% of the unarmed civilians killed by officers in 2015 were African American.  Our clinic put together a written submission on the topic from an international human rights perspective. The submission in support of a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the topic of police violence against Black Americans.  At the hearing, family members of victims testified, and it was incredibly powerful.  You can watch the hearing here and start at 6:30. 

A photo of the GJC outside the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

(The submission is monstrous, so I attached the shorter version to this email that we submitted to the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.)

This winter, I first visited Zoe (PLC '13) in Ecuador, where she has been living for the past six months and running a vegetarian restaurant. This trip was the first time the four of us had been together for 18 months, and we had a great time. (Note on Zoe: she will be coming back to the United States in March and will first visit me in New York). 

Zoe and I on​​ the beach in Canoa, Ecuador!

Then, I went on a weeklong refugee rights trip to Amman Jordan with International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP).  I attached a summary of my trip to Jordan, if you want to learn more.  I would encourage you to watch this beautifully made story, The Waypoint, on refugees made my the Washington Post last month to learn more about the current situation of refugees in Europe.

Through the student group chapter of IRAP, which I am a chapter leader of this year, I am on a team that represents an Iraqi woman and her family who are seeking to come to the United States as refugees.  They live in hiding in Iraq fearing for their lives after being kidnapped and beaten because her sister was a translator for the U.S. Army in Iraq. It is a very scary situation for them, and we are doing our best to get them to safety as quickly as possible.

This spring, I am continuing my work on racial justice. GJC is now partnering with Sadie Nash Leadership Project in Newark, NJ to put together a town hall for women and girls to express their experiences of human rights violations in their lives.  Here is an example of a past town hall that was held in New York.  It is incredibly powerful to hear the lived experiences of these young women of color, unfortunately, so different from my own.

In addition to GJC, I am working on directed research with Carol Gilligan, a feminist developmental psychologist who has written on girls moral development.  Her famous book was In a Different Voice published in the 1980's.  I am working on an article for publication about the transformative nature of interviewing in human rights lawyering.

This summer, I will at Brooklyn's Legal Aid Society-Juvenile Rights Project, where I will be interviewing kids in abuse and neglect cases.  I am excited to continue my work on children's rights in my own backyard. My life stays busy, so I have only been back to Denver once for 5 days last summer.  I hope to be there in May for two weeks, and maybe can see some of you all!

Beyond school and travel, I am keeping up my yoga practice, training for the women's half marathon in Central Park in April, and making most of my own food.  Like my mom, I am baking my own bread and brewing my own kombucha! 

While longer than I expected, I hope this gives a good introduction to my world as a human rights lawyer in training!  Please follow up with questions, reflections and stories of your own. 

Sending love to you all!


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