Energizing law students from across Southern California to engage in the fight for social justice for a wide range of workers, immigrants, inmates and others, students from the National Lawyers Guild chapter at UCLA School of Law hosted their second annual Liberation Lawyering Conference on March 2.
More than 200 law students, law professors, practicing attorneys, community advocates and organizers came to the law school for an all-day program highlighting activist voices.
Melina Abdullah, founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Los Angeles and a professor at California State University Los Angeles, offered the morning keynote address, which was co-sponsored by La Raza Law Students Association as part of their For People of Color Conference. Abdullah rallied students to use their legal skills and passion to improve lives, challenge fundamentally oppressive institutions and advocate unceasingly on behalf of Black and other marginalized communities.
"I want you to think of yourselves as movement lawyers, engaged in the lifelong struggle for liberation that we will eventually win," she said.
Participants in a panel on Puerto Rican Self-Determination, from left: Nicole Hernandez, co-founder of Puerto Ricans in Action; Meagan Ortiz, executive director of the Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California; Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, associate counsel at LatinoJustice and past president of the National Lawyers Guild; and UCLA Law 2L Andrea Gonzalez.
Workshop sessions with expert panels focused on issues including affirmative action; self-determination for Puerto Rico; decriminalization of sex work; prison and police reform; intersectional immigrants' rights advocacy; animal rights; and achieving economic justice through worker-owned cooperatives.
Sasha Novis '19, founder of the event and chair of the 2018 and 2019 editions, said, "The Liberation Lawyering Conference is a completely student-run, grassroots gathering. Our goal is to bring non-attorney voices in the room, so we can learn how to collaborate and achieve justice together as a community. Our conference addresses systemic injustices that are not being discussed elsewhere."
Co-sponsors of the event included the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles chapter and the NLG student chapters at UCLA Law, Southwestern School of Law and Loyola Law School; the UCLA Law David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, Critical Race Studies Program, Promise Institute for Human Rights, and Office of Career Services; the UCLA Graduate Students Association, Healthy Campus Initiative, and Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and student organizations including the UCLA Animal Law Society, UCLA Black Law Students Association, UCLA Law International Human Rights Law Association, UCLA La Raza Law Students Association, UCLA Law Students for Immigrant Justice and South Asian Law Students Association.
Organizers of the event include conference chair Sasha Novis' 19, NLG-UCLA co-chairs Stephano Medina '20 and Rachel Pendleton '20, as well as Erik Berner '20, Ary Hansen '21, Nicole Hansen '21, Samantha Keng '21, Loyola Law student Chris Kissel '20, Tori Lew '20, Lydia Nicholson '21, Jordan Palmer '21, Simon Sherred '21, Ihaab Syed '19 and Sara Yufa '21.