Miami Law has launched the Advocates in Action Program. The recent “Advocates in Action: Racial Justice Leaders” webinar tackled tangible action items Miami Law students could implement now to effectuate change using their legal skills.
Dean Marcelyn Cox of the Career Development Office and Dean Marni Lennon of the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center designed the Advocates in Action Program as an interactive follow-up to the recent "Teach-In on Racist Policing and the Role of Law and Lawyers in the Problem and its Solutions," which was hosted by Anthony E. Varona, dean and M. Minnette Massey Professor of Law, and Ronnie Graham, incoming president of the Black Lawyers Student Association.
Racial justice leaders Desmond Meade, president and executive director of the Florida Rights Coalition, Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, director of the Office of Civil Rights Evaluation for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Melba Pearson, of MVP Law, LLC and former deputy director of the ACLU of Florida; and Andrew Darling, J.D. ’18, of Andrew Darling Law, P.A., provided insight and advice to more than 62 members of the Miami Law community in the 90-minute interactive program.
The speakers emphasized the most important action item is exercising one's right to vote and encouraging one's network to do the same. Voting for elected officials that share a student’s values and has a corresponding platform is the fastest and most direct way to create positive change.
“We are at a critical moment in history, especially when it comes to accountability,” said Pearson, who is running for Miami-Dade State Attorney. “We can make real and lasting change at the ballot box. Do your research and vote your values on August 18 and November 3. Your vote is your voice."
Students were also encouraged to stay educated, and the panelists highlighted specific resources as information sources. The guests advised the students to use their legal expertise to support organizations doing civil rights and voting rights work, like the ACLU of Florida and Color of Change.
“Criminal justice reform must start at the foundation of the criminal justice system. That foundation is law enforcement. If we reimagine how and what we utilize police for we can reimagine the entire system. We must change our priorities and voting for Sheriffs and State Attorneys that that align with our values is key,” said Darling, who is running for sheriff of Orange County. “The time is now!”
The speakers encouraged students to reach out directly for internship opportunities as well as recommended students reach out to local criminal defense attorneys to volunteer their legal research and writing skills to support pro bono efforts representing peaceful protesters arrested exercising their constitutional rights.
Some of the resources highlighted during the Advocates in Action Program included:
The CDO and HOPE Office will continue to plan and host additional programming events throughout the summer.