The Racial Justice Working Group was convened in response to the national uprising over police brutality and systemic racism. During the summer of 2020, the group, which included students, staff, and faculty, advised Dean Gregory Mandel on actions the law school can take in the short, medium, and long terms to address racial inequities within the law school community, our wider geographic communities, and the legal profession itself. Some of the law students participating in the group explain what that work means to them and their future careers.
Terence Jones LAW ’21
I have gone to predominantly white private schools from third grade all the way through college. For me, this brought the unfortunate responsibility of educating my peers, faculty, and administration. I was regularly asked to speak about my experience as a black man receiving an education that did not have people like me in mind when it was created and how it can be made better now that people like me are here. I have always seen myself as a leader and an advocate, which is why I came to law school. So, when I was offered to join the Racial Justice Working Group, I did not think twice about it. I wanted to be a part of this group to ensure that real change happens, and to ensure that the black students had a voice in the conversation around how to make the Temple Law education and experience more equitable. I spent the majority of my first year in law school building rapport with my peers, and now I am able to use those relationships to make sure their voices can be heard in spaces like these. I want to be a liason so that the experiences of future law students of color are better than the experiences of those that came before me. Lastly, I made a conscious and informed decision to go to Temple’s Law school.
I chose Temple over the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, Drexel University, and a number of other schools because I truly believe that Temple creates the most, and the top, lawyers in Philadelphia. But if students can receive an education from this esteemed school and not learn about how race affects the law, the importance of diversity, or how to be an equitable lawyer, then both the students and their future clients are at a great disservice. Temple Law is cultivating the leaders of the legal community, and through the Racial Justice Working Group, combined with the support of the Faculty in the Sheller Center for Social Justice and my fellow peers of color, I hope that those leaders can have a greater understanding of racial justice issues.
Kayla Martin LAW ’21
I joined the Racial Justice Working Group because it provided a unique opportunity to influence how the law school can enhance its anti-racist policies and practices. It is my hope that the efforts of the working group will result in unprecedented, institutional change that targets racial inequality in an intentional and impactful way. Collaborating with faculty members, administrators, and other students to shape an experience that will last beyond my time at the law school has been extremely rewarding. This experience has enhanced my belief that the time for change is always now, and never later.
Brandon Miller LAW ’22
I was invited to join the Racial Justice Working Group in early June, after Covid-19 had begun wreaking havoc on all facets of life, but could not stop a global reckoning on race, Black lives, and the policing of Black bodies. As a non-traditional, Black male law student at Temple, I saw joining this collective as both an opportunity and a responsibility. I felt it was important to have my voice in the conversation and I felt the group of students, staff, faculty, and administrators had the ability and the moment to have a truly impactful influence on the experiences of Black and minority students at Temple Law. I also recognized this as the embodiment of why I came to Temple – a school renowned for its commitment to public interests – in order to use a legal education to propel change to better my communities.
Through our work so far I have learned that we have a long way to go and that racial injustice affects every corner of the world we live in. Our group has looked at issues ranging from ensuring the voices of minority students are acknowledged, heard, respected in their individual classes to the requirements of the American Bar Association as they pertain to courses on race and the law. We have discussed admissions, financial aid, faculty hiring, department creation, and everything in between. Through our work I have learned that systemic change is met with bureaucratic roadblocks that slow down progress, and that it takes diligence and internal supports to navigate those roadblocks. Thankfully, this group has many dedicated allies who seem intent on ensuring our work will not be in vain.
I came into law school knowing I wanted to use my education here to address issues of equality, equity, civil rights, and injustice. As an educator I have seen how the justice system creates huge ripples in the lives of young people that influence their success long before they enter school and long after they leave. Working with the Racial Justice Working Group this summer has only increased my understanding and preparation to continue addressing these issues once I graduate. I am thankful for the opportunity and hopeful for meaningful change.”