NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF BLACK LAWYERS

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PRESENTER

BIOGRAPHIES

For An Inter.Generational Conversation

DR. AMANDA ALEXANDER
Moderator

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DETROIT JUSTICE CENTER

Dr. Amanda Alexander is the founding Executive Director of the Detroit Justice Center, a movement lawyering organization that works alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system, and promote equitable and just cities.


Since opening its doors in April 2018, the Detroit Justice Center has provided life-changing legal services to hundreds of clients and earned a reputation as a promising source of innovation in the justice field.


Originally from Michigan, Dr. Alexander has worked at the intersection of racial justice, social movements, and community development in Detroit, New York, and South Africa for over 15 years. She is an Echoing Green Fellow, Soros Justice Fellow, Fulbright-Hays Scholar, and 2018 Law for Black Lives Legal Innovator Fellow.


Dr. Alexander is a Senior Research Scholar at the University of Michigan Law School and serves on the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. She holds a JD from Yale Law School, PhD in international history from Columbia University, and BA from Harvard College. Her writing has been published in The Globe & Mail, Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Harvard Journal of African-American Public Policy, Michigan Child Welfare Law Journal, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Review of African Political Economy, and other publications.

 
 

DR. ANGELA Y. DAVIS
Presenter

AUTHOR | SCHOLAR | ACTIVIST

Angela Y. Davis, through her activism and scholarship over many decades, Angela Davis has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world.  Her work as an educator – both at the university level and in the larger public sphere – has always emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice.


Professor Davis’ teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and UC Berkeley.  She also has taught at UCLA, Vassar, Syracuse University the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford University.  Mostly recently she spent fifteen years at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is now Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness – an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program – and of Feminist Studies.


Angela Davis is the author of ten books and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America.  In recent years a persistent theme of her work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination.  She draws upon her own experiences in the early seventies as a person who spent eighteen months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.”  She also has conducted extensive research on numerous issues related to race, gender and imprisonment. 


Dr. Davis' recent books include Abolition Democracy and Are Prisons Obsolete? about the abolition of the prison industrial complex, a new edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and a collection of essays entitled The Meaning of Freedom. Her most recent book of essays, called Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, was published in February 2016.


Angela Davis is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex.  Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia that works in solidarity with women in prison.


Like many educators, Professor Davis is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions.  Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” she now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement.

ATTY. VINCENT WARREN
Presenter

ATTORNEY | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,

CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

Vincent Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He oversees CCR's groundbreaking litigation and advocacy work, which includes using international and domestic law to hold corporations and government officials accountable for human rights abuses; challenging racial, gender, and LGBT injustice; combating abusive immigration policies and Muslim profiling; and stopping the illegal expansion of U.S. presidential power and policies such as illegal detention at Guantanamo and torture.


Prior to his tenure at CCR, Vince was a national senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, where he litigated civil rights cases, focusing on affirmative action, racial profiling, and criminal justice reform. Vince was also involved in monitoring South Africa's historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, and worked as a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. He is a graduate of Haverford College and Rutgers School of Law.

 

ATTY. DERECKA PURNELL
Presenter

ATTORNEY

Derecka Purnell is a human rights lawyer, writer, and organizer who works to sustain social movements. She helped build the leadership structure and political education program in the Belinda Hall student movement at Harvard Law. There, she worked alongside student activists, dining workers, and administrative staff to successfully fight against unfair labor practices. Their activism compelled Harvard Law School to remove the school’s shield that honored a slave owner; memorialize the enslaved persons whose labor benefited the Law school; and concede to striking workers' demands.

Since law school, Derecka has worked on police and prison violence across the country. As a Skadden Fellow, she helped design the Justice Project at Advancement Project’s National Office. She worked on police accountability issues, prosecutor races, and jail closure campaigns, providing community organizing training, political education and legal representation to organizers in St. Louis and Ferguson. Her advocacy efforts led to the dismissal of over 3,000 cases based on unconstitutional policing practices.

Derecka regularly provides legal assistance and trainings to community organizations working to end police violence or close prisons through an abolitionist framework. She served on the founding steering committee for Law for Black Lives, a growing network 5,000 law students, lawyers, and legal workers to support social movements. An internationalist, she’s lectured or strategized movement tactics with protesters, academics, and journalists in The Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Derecka recently received her JD from Harvard Law School, her BA from the University of Missouri- Kansas City, and studied public policy and economics at the University of California- Berkeley as a Public Policy and International Affairs Law Fellow.

Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Truthout, Boston Review, Huffington Post, Vox, and In These Times. She’s been featured on NPR, the Boston Globe, and MSNBC, and is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy.

Derecka is a proud St. Louis native. She currently serves as the Deputy Director of the Spirit of Justice Center at Union TheologicaL.