I was recently on a panel at Reverend Sharpton’s National Action Network convening and shared the stage with Twyla Carter, attorney-in-chief and chief executive officer of the Legal Aid Society. My mind is still reeling over some of her detailed analysis.
I always thought of the Legal Aid Society as a place where people went if they had a run-in with the law and needed a lawyer. I had no idea of the work they are doing to provide justice and equity for thousands of people. As their mission clearly states, “The Legal Aid Society works throughout New York City to ensure everyone has access to justice. Our expert teams work across practice areas on nearly every area of law that impacts New Yorkers.”
I did not know that the Legal Aid Society tackled issues pertaining to advancing LGBTQ+ rights, advocating for financial rights and assisting entrepreneurs, defending the accused and incarcerated, empowering people with disability and health issues, engaging and investing in communities, fighting for racial equity, lifting the voices of children and adolescents, preventing homelessness and saving homes, pursuing justice for juveniles, reforming law and policy, standing with immigrants, supporting survivors of violence and navigating divorce, and upholding worker’s rights.
In a system that often favors those with money and privilege, the Legal Aid Society is working tirelessly to change that and to guarantee equal access to justice for all New Yorkers. In doing so, their civil, criminal defense, juvenile rights, and pro bono practices work in and outside the courtroom. The goal of the Legal Aid Society is to defend their clients and “dismantle the hidden, systemic barriers that can prevent them from thriving in New York City.”
In some recent cases, I discovered that the Legal Aid Society has fought to secure a settlement expanding dental coverage to millions of New Yorkers, fight against the Rent Guidelines Board’s preliminary vote to increase rents, address bail reform, and tackle tenant harassment, to name just a few. The services provided by the Legal Aid Society has helped thousands of New Yorkers in every facet of their lives.
Those of you who read my column know how I feel about community and supporting people, groups, businesses, and institutions that work to make our society better and more just. It is imperative we support the work of the Legal Aid Society so they can continue to provide this invaluable service to so many people who lack resources to fight on a level playing field.
If you want to learn more about the work of the Legal Aid Society, go to www.legalaidnyc.org. You can also find out more about their diverse employment opportunities, fellowships, internships, and training programs. We must contribute to creating the city we want to see.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University; author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”; and co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and host of The Blackest Questions podcast at TheGrio.