Arming Underrepresented Communities with Legal Power

I’m pleased to host a guest post from 2L Yetunde Buraimoh, discussing the Black Law Student Association’s recent “Know Your Rights” training.

When I sat down with the Black Law Students Association’s  (BLSA) E-board last spring to plan programming for the 2017-18 academic year, we unanimously agreed that it was necessary to increase BLSA’s presence in the greater Boston community. Given our nation’s current social climate, particularly the increased exposure of police brutality, we felt that it was crucial to facilitate programming that would equip individuals in over-policed communities with the knowledge necessary to make the best decisions for their safety.

BLSA Co-President Stephanie Johnson has a background in public interest and a passion for social justice, and she suggested that BLSA hold a Know Your Rights training in collaboration with the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). The NLG works to engage communities in civil rights education and advocacy. Our goals for the training were twofold. It would teach BC Law students about their 4th Amendment rights and equip them with the skills necessary to use their newfound knowledge to lead community trainings alongside NLG attorneys.

On September 26, BLSA kicked off its semester of programming with an exciting and informative Stop & Search Training Session. Over 60 students representing all class years from the BC Law community were in attendance for our thrilling event. Makis Antzoulatos, a public defender in Roxbury, came out and educated us on different tactics to protect one’s freedom when interacting with law enforcement. He broke down individual civil liberties in three settings: on the street, in one’s car, and in one’s home. You might think that this information should be easy for law students, but it can be pretty complicated. He guided us through the tricky waters of consenting to searches and informed us of keywords and phrases to use during an interaction with the police.

Makis used his years of legal knowledge and taught us how law enforcement thinks when they encounter certain individuals and various indicators that they use to target people, especially people of color. Through his witty humor and passion for helping others, Makis was able to teach us the basics of “street law” and encouraged us to use our legal knowledge for the greater good of society. It was inspiring to see my fellow classmates open up about their interactions with police and share their reason for attending the training in the first place. This event showed me how passionate BC Law students are about social justice and how eager we are to help in any way possible. Importantly, now a group of us can spread the word to other community members about how to react to, and advocate for rights during police stops.

This Fall, BLSA will be partnering with the NLG to host Know Your Rights Trainings in Boston. These trainings will take place in Allston/Brighton on October 18 and November 7, and in Roxbury on October 14. Attendees received pro bono hours for attending the BLSA event, and will receive pro bono hours for participating in the NLG-sponsored community trainings. For more information on how to get involved with the upcoming training sessions, or any future BLSA events, please contact us at bclaw.blsa@gmail.com.

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