NCBL WEBINAR: 2020 JUNETEENTH FORUM *
Fighting For Democracy, Protecting The Vote
While local and national elections have long been a source of struggle for black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC), the 2020 election season involves unique challenges to voter participation.
Already the primaries have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis with voters in some states denied an opportunity to vote. Some advocates highlight that new voter registration has been nearly eliminated with the closing of DMVs, libraries, and other traditional registration locations.
JOIN US! ORGANIZE! STRATEGIZE!
We must not let the opposition forces use this pandemic to steal the 2020 elections. With its many challenges, the crisis requires expanded advocacy and collaboration and more impactful strategies to address voter suppression and the long-term issues regarding access to the ballot.
Advocates have called for expanding options for voting, including mail-in, virtual, and even telephone-based voting. NCBL will bring together experts who will evaluate the pros and cons of these options and use this current crisis as an important opportunity for change and to expand ballot access for incarcerated and returning citizens.
* Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of U.S. slavery for enslaved Africans on June 19, 1865.
Our distinguished panelists have a long and brilliant history of fighting the discriminatory and suppressive voting attacks and will discuss the importance of why we all must exercise our most fundamental right to vote. Our panelists will also look at the critical issues for voters in this 2020 election and what we will need to do to prepare. We will discuss the following:
Historical information on the Voting Rights Act and contemporary efforts to protect the vote of Black people and other people of color;
The use of the COVID-19 pandemic to justify ongoing strategies to deny access to the ballot for black, indigenous, and other people of color;
Current legal and organizational strategies regarding protecting the vote; and
The necessary role of activists and lawyers in protecting the vote and maintaining voter turnout.
Former National Director of NCBL
Former National Director of NCBL
Senior National Coordinator, Protection Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Former National Director of NCBL
Founding Executive Director, Center for Law & Social Justice
NCBL PRESIDENT: Nana GyamfiNANA GYAMFI is the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), the largest Black-led social justice organization representing the nearly 10 million Black immigrants, refugees, and families living in the U.S. She previously served as BAJI's Board Vice- Chair and Managing Director. A Movement attorney for over 25 years, Nana is co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives and Human Rights Advocacy, both dedicated to fighting for human rights and Black liberation. She has served as the Executive Director of Black Women's Forum, an organization co-founded by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who serves as its President. Nana is a former professor in the Pan-African Studies Department at California State University Los Angeles. She has repeated appearances in documentaries and other media, including Tales of the Grim Sleeper and Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and she hosts her own weekly radio show ‘Conversations On the Way: The Asafo Edition”.
NCBL SECRETARY: Whitley CarpenterWHITLEY CARPENTER is a Staff Attorney at Forward Justice. Her work regularly reflects her strong commitment to advocating for and uplifting the voices of oppressed and systemically disenfranchised communities. Whitley is originally from Winston-Salem, NC. She attended NC State University where she helped recruit underrepresented groups of students and coordinated college visits for middle and high school students of color. She graduated in 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Political Science. Whitley received her J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2015. During law school, she worked with the UNC Center of Poverty, Work, and Opportunity where she focused on bringing attention to issues impacted North Carolina’s poor communities and with the UNC Civil Legal Assistance Clinic representing clients in housing and education cases. She also began doing Second Chance advocacy and direct-services work during law school, which has been a large part of her focus since. Since law school, Whitley has focused her work on developing the necessary tools and strategies to fight against racism and to liberate and empower oppressed communities. She has participated in the planning and implementation of more than twelve Clean Slate Clinics across North Carolina and filed thousands of expungement petitions across the state. She also has worked with grassroots organizations and community members to advocate for Second Chance policy changes at the local and state level. She currently serves on the advisory board of the Durham Expunction and Restoration Program, is an active member of the NC Second Chance Alliance, leads the NC Court Costs and Fees Working Group, and is a Chapter Organizer and Leader for the National Conference of Black Lawyers - NC Chapter. Whitley brings a tireless commitment and a determined passion to her work on behalf of those who have often been silenced.
NCBL TREASURER: Florence MorganFLORENCE MORGAN was born and grown on St. Helena Island, South Carolina. Upon completion of high school there, she came to New York where she enrolled in the City College of the City University of New York. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree and then enrolled in Columbia University where she obtained two Master’s degrees. After working for several years, Florence enrolled part-time at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, New Jersey while working full time as a member of the support staff at The Legal Aid Society of New York. She received a J.D. degree and was hired as Staff Attorney by The Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense practice unit. She has been working in this capacity for 32 years and has represented thousands of clients. Florence joined the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) in 1990. It was not long after joining the organization, that Florence became a member of the Criminal Justice section and later, accepted the position of chapter chairperson for the New York chapter. She also held a National Board membership as Treasurer of the NCBL. In 2004, Florence became the first recipient of the Haywood Burns and Shanara Gilbert Legal Warrior’s award. She has been very active throughout her membership in the NCBL, serving on several program committees in planning annual conferences. She also has organized many activities for the New York chapter.
NCBL BOARD MEMBER: Jeffrey Lee EdisonIn October 1974, JEFFREY LEE EDISON, as a law student, attended his first annual meeting of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), in New Orleans, LA. This meeting of NCBL lawyers, law students, and legal workers, under the directorship of Lennox Hinds, solidified Mr. Edison’s foundation, inspiration and frame of reference for what an African American lawyer should be. Mr. Edison returned to Detroit, and helped organize the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Michigan Chapter, in March 1975. Mr. Edison continues as an active member of NCBL for 45 years. Mr. Edison is a former National Co-Chair, NCBL; former National Co-Chair, Criminal Justice Section, NCBL; former faculty and former member, Board of Directors, Detroit/Wayne County Criminal Advocacy Program; member, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, and, former member, Legal Redress Committee, NAACP. Mr. Edison has lectured on various criminal justice issues and has trained lawyers on trial advocacy techniques. He has participated in various programs in correctional facilities to address prisoner concerns and has been involved in community organizing around prison issues, police brutality, and political prisoners. Mr. Edison made his first pilgrimage to Africa, which was a life-changing experience, in September 1987, when he represented NCBL on a hospitality tour of Togo, West Africa; and, he also spent a week in Ivory Coast, West Africa. In 1989, Mr. Edison represented NCBL, as part of a Nation of Islam delegation to Libya, in celebration of Libya’s 20th Anniversary. This delegation included among others, Adjoa Aiyetoro, NCBL, National Co-chair; Akbar Muhammed, Nation of Islam; Chokwe Lumumba, New Afrikan Peoples Organization; Imari Obadele, President, Republic of New Afrika; and Kwame Ture. In 1991, The African National Congress invited NCBL, and the National Lawyers Guild to discuss, analyze and present papers on various issues that would assist the ANC in its formulation of a South African constitution, in anticipation of an ANC victory in the upcoming national elections. In collaboration with the late M. Shanara Gilbert, of NCBL, Mr. Edison, presented, “Comments: The Draft Bill of Rights for Post-Apartheid South Africa: Protections for the Criminal Defendant,” at a Constitution Making Conference, in Cape Town, South Africa. Some of the NCBL members in the delegation were Cheryl Harris, National Co-Chair; Adrienne Wing, Chair, International Section; Judith Bourne; Judy Scully; and Shirley Traylor. During the trip to South Africa, Mr. Edison was part of a delegation that represented NCBL in Namibia, for Namibia’s celebration of its Second Anniversary of Independence. Mr. Edison met and stayed in the home of the renowned revolutionary freedom fighter, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo. He was a founding member of the Southwest African People’s Organization, SWAPO, which was the vanguard of the liberation movement that gained Namibia’s independence from South Africa. Toivo ya Toivo was captured, viciously tortured, tried, and imprisoned by the apartheid South African regime during the Namibia’s struggle for independence. Mr. Edison met and attended a State Dinner hosted by President Sam Nujoma, where Mr. Edison was honored to present a toast to the president. Mr. Edison and his wife, Shaakira, now commute to Ghana twice annually. He works with and supports Shaakira’s project, the Ababio Culture and Arts Center, whose goal is to help empower and revitalize the Bantuma and Akyinim communities in Elmina, Ghana, through culture, arts, education, and training.
NCBL BOARD MEMBER: Desiree M. FergusonDESIREE M. FERGUSON is the Legal Director / Senior Staff Attorney of the Detroit Justice Center, a newly established non-profit community-based law firm, which endeavors to remove barriers to employment for returning citizens, create economic opportunities, transform the justice system and otherwise engender a just and equitable City. Before joining DJC, Desiree retired after serving for over 26 years as an Assistant Defender at the State Appellate Defender Office, where she specialized in handling criminal defense appeals on behalf of indigent persons convicted of felonies, in both State and Federal courts. She taught a Criminal Appellate Advocacy clinic at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Wayne State University Law School and the University of Michigan Law School. Previously, she worked for UAW Legal Services Plan, Michigan Legal Services, Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services and Farmworker Legal Services. A native Detroiter, Desiree graduated from Cass Tech in 1975, and from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature in 1978 and a Juris Doctor in 1982. She is an active member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and served as its national co-Chair for two terms. In that capacity, she co-authored a Brief of Amicus Curiae in the Supreme Court of the United States in Gratz v Bollinger, supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action educational programs. She is also an active member of the National Lawyers Guild, and currently serves on the Board of its Michigan/Detroit Chapter.
NCBL BOARD MEMBER: Laura HollandLAURA HOLLAND is an attorney at the North Carolina Justice Center working to remove barriers to opportunity for people with criminal records. Prior to starting at the Justice Center, Laura worked on the Criminal Justice team and Clean Slate Project at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Laura Holland, born and raised in Salisbury, NC, was thrusted into the movement for black liberation from a frustration with the mistreatment of her loved ones. Growing up Laura observed (and experience) the destruction caused by the criminalization of poverty and race, thus she has dedicated her life to disrupting the system that perpetuates these abuses. She is a graduate of Duke University and North Carolina Central School of Law.
NCBL BOARD MEMBER: Justice Yvonne LewisJUSTICE YVONNE LEWIS graduated from the State University of New York, College at Geneseo with a Bachelor of Science in Education (Secondary Social Studies). As a result, she taught in Buffalo high schools and did social work for Erie County Welfare Department. Returning to school three years after college, she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Buffalo, School of Law and Jurisprudence upon her completion of Law School, Justice Lewis was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship and therewith 'landed' in New York City. She worked with Legal Services in several offices as a Staff Attorney, a Unit Director, the Director of Litigation and the Managing Attorney. Additionally, she served with the Legal Services Corporation to assist legal services offices both in compliance and technical assistance for the provision of services.Before going on the bench, Justice Lewis also taught as a Charles H. Revson fellow at City University of New York, City College and a Clinical Professor at Hofstra Law School. She was elected to the Civil Court (Kings County) in 1986 - the first African-American female to sit in that Court in Brooklyn, NY. In1988 Justice Lewis was appointed to the Committee on Judicial Ethics; she remained on that committee until the year of her retirement from the bench. She was elected to the Supreme Court Bench in 1991. She is currently on the board of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission on Minorities and the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and past president/moderator of the National Consortium, member, board member and past president of The Judicial Friends, a member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, The Metropolitan BlackBar Association, The Association of Black Women Attorneys, The National Lawyers Guild, the State Associations of Women Judges (past member of the Board of Directors), the Brooklyn Women's Bar Association, National Council of Negro Women and, a lifetime member of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was past co-chair of the Kings County Black History Month Committee, which every February sponsors events month long throughout the various Brooklyn courts. Justice Lewis has coordinated many panels and workshop discussions on the issues of race and racism for the New York State Judicial Seminars and the Winter Roundtable at Teacher’s College. Justice Lewis retired in 2015.
NCBL BOARD MEMBER: Angaza Samora Mayo-LaughinghouseANGAZA SAMORA MAYO-LAUGHINGHOUSE is a North Carolina-based activist, organizer, and attorney. He received his B.A. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and his J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law. Before graduating from law school in 2015, Angaza spent time as a community and labor organizer and activist, supporting working-class struggles for racial and economic justice. He later served as an Assistant Public Defender in Durham, NC, where he handled various traffic and criminal matters. His frustration with the systemic inequities in the criminal justice system led him to join various non profits as a staff attorney, working to end Mass Incarceration and the School to Prison Pipeline, while also organizing to empower oppressed communities. He would like to serve on the board of NCBL in order to ensure its legacy continues. Black people today are facing attacks on various battlefronts, including neo-liberal capitalism, mass incarceration, gentrification, and more. Our grassroots organizations progressive Black lawyers must join ranks to help defend and advance the Black agenda. As young attorneys, it is our duty to learn all we can from our veteran comrades and continue the struggle for Black liberation.
NCBL BOARD MEMBER: Attorney Deidra L. McEachernATTORNEY DEIDRA L. MCEACHERN is the founder and a partner at The McEachern Law Firm, Inc. and has been engaged in the practice of law for nearly 30 years. She handles the firms Personal Injury, Family and Contract cases and currently, along with a team of attorneys represents Political Prisoner Dr. Mutulu Shakur. In her practice of law, Atty. D. McEachern has obtained six-figure settlements and judgments for clients against the District of Columbia as well as against the Federal Government. She has also negotiated large settlements for clients in personal injury cases. She has successfully defended and prosecuted cases for clients in family cases against some of the largest law firms in the District of Columbia. She has represented clients as well-known as Dr. Shakur to those who are as unknown as a 10 year-old burn victim. Attorney Deidra McEachern earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and her Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law. She also has a Course Certificate from Yale University for Introduction to Negotiation. Attorney McEachern is a former member of Bryant Inn of Court and previously served as the Parliamentarian for Howard University Hospital's Women's' Auxiliary. She is the former Secretary for National Conference of Black Lawyer-DC’s Chapter and was a Panel Speaker at the NCBL's 50th Anniversary in Detroit, MI in October 2018. Currently, Attorney McEachern serves as the co-convener of the NCBL-D.C.’s Chapter and is the Chair of their Voting Project. She also serves as NCBL -DC’s National Board representative. Attorney McEachern is a member of Women in Law, the NAACP and the National Bar Association.