Advocacy in Ideas: Legal Education and Social Movements

Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Summer 2018 | Go to article overview

Advocacy in Ideas: Legal Education and Social Movements


Elise Lopez [EL]: Thank you all for attending our conference. I want to thank the conference chairs and all of our Empowering Women of Color (EWOC) team for putting together this incredible event.

I hope you all are, and continue to be, inspired as I have been throughout the day. We have one more amazing panel, entitled Advocacy in Ideas: Legal Education and Social Movements. Our own professor Olatunde Johnson will be moderating. Please enjoy this culminating discussion.

Olatunde Johnson [OJ]: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. We are very excited about this last panel, which we hope will present an opportunity to bring a lot of the themes together from the day and reflect. I'm always happy to be at EWOC events. I remember the early days of EWOC--it was hatched out of a little bit of pain and despair, but it has become a place of leadership for our entire community. I remember those early meetings in Katherine Franke's house with some of the faculty around here participating in those early discussions. It's really been inspiring to see how the organization has grown. So, thank you for putting together this conference, and to ail of you who have taken leadership in EWOC.

This panel is really an opportunity to explore the role of women of color in shaping ideas in the legal academy and in legal discourse more broadly. Everyone on this panel today is a professor and has joined legal academia, but what I think we really want to emphasize through this is that for many of us it begins in law school, where you can engage in shaping ideas through the writing that you do in your courses and in journals, in taking leadership positions in journals, and in organizing conferences like this. It may seem that in talking about the legal academy it's really a shift away from some of the discussions of particular substantive areas that we were just talking about--healthcare and healthcare disparities--but I think it's important for us to think about the issues that are often marginalized in legal academy and the role that women of color can play in bringing these issues into mainstream legal discourse, or in expanding what we think of as being the mainstream.

We have a wonderful panel here today to talk to us about shaping legal discourse, and they're going to talk about their own paths to legal academia. We'll talk about some of the opportunities as well as the general structural barriers and how one might begin to address these barriers. They'll also talk to you about their work, about their own journeys and methodology, and about how they've approached some of the questions we've been dealing with today.

I'm going to very briefly introduce the panelists. Our panelists all have formidable backgrounds and you should read their full bios, but I will just tell you they've all published fascinating, groundbreaking articles in top law reviews and in prominent journals. Their scholarship spans fields including constitutional law, international law, corporate law, family law, criminal law, civil rights law, and sociology. They've clerked, they've worked in fancy jobs in private practice, public interest, government, et cetera. I'm going to introduce the panelists briefly, then I'm going to throw out a general question that gives them an opportunity to talk about their paths to academia.

First, we have Solangel Maldonado. She's a Columbia Law graduate--and has also been sitting next to me all semester because she's teaching Family Law here--and she's a professor at Seton Hall Law School. Then we have Rachelle Perkins, who's an Associate Professor of Law, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at George Mason Law School. And then we have Monica Bell, a Climenko Fellow & Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, and a PhD candidate in sociology at Harvard, and she'll be joining the faculty of some very lucky law school this fall. And then we have Professor Chantal Thomas, who's a Professor of Law at Cornell Law School. …

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