Stand With Us in 2017: A Message for the New Year
As the New Year approaches, the stakes are higher than ever for the children, families, and communities that the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (CLC) has fought for throughout our 47-year history. The ugly political rhetoric of the 2016 national elections has unleashed spikes in violence, bigotry, and hate speech aimed at African-Americans and other people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, Muslims, and others. Our country is bracing for aggressive efforts to enact policy changes that will roll back many hard-won advances in civil rights and anti-poverty reforms. These moves will be particularly harmful in Chicago - a city marked by generations of segregation, rocked by police brutality and community violence, and plagued by an ongoing local and state budget crisis that is shutting off basic human services to the people who need them the most.
As the preeminent non-profit civil rights legal organization in Chicago and across the state, CLC is doubling down on our commitment to the unfinished business of our nation’s civil rights movement. In this time of great fear and uncertainty, CLC will continue to leverage the power of our partnerships with the private bar and community organizations to expand our historic work advancing racial equity and economic opportunity in education, housing, voting rights, community development, and public safety.
As I approach the end of my first year as executive director, I am very proud of the 2016 accomplishments of our staff and volunteers, and emboldened by CLC’s new strategic direction that brings a sharper focus on racial equity and community empowerment. A few highlights include:
- Protected the rights of thousands of voters on Election Day by mobilizing more than 300 legal volunteers in nonpartisan election protection efforts, and successfully defended Election Day Registration in Illinois in litigation through partnership with other groups.
- Successfully pushed City Council and the Mayor’s office to increase community input and transparency in the process leading up to passage of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability ordinance by coordinating a police reform collaborative of legal, policy, and community organizations.
- Ramped up our Hate Crime Project, established a dedicated helpline, coordinated a pro bono legal response, and convened community group representatives to monitor and respond to hate incidents across our community given the national post-election surge of harassment and bias violence.
- Kept children in school and addressed racial disparities in discipline by training more than 700 school administrators through our role as founding members of the Transforming School Discipline Collaborative and providing legal assistance to 77 students to help them avoid expulsion, thereby significantly increasing the likelihood that they will graduate and seek higher education or gainful employment.
- Enforced state and federal fair housing laws and increased access to affordable and stable housing for over 1100 people of color, immigrants, housing voucher holders, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities through litigation, testing, and training.
- Launched a new effort to advocate for local community benefits agreements on the South and West sides of Chicago, strengthened the capacity of nonprofit organizations, helped entrepreneurs start new small businesses, and assisted first time home buyers through community education and legal services in 250 matters.
Not since the 1960s have our city and state so urgently needed powerful civil rights legal advocacy. In the face of assaults on civil and human rights that attack the core of our democracy and threaten to tear our city apart, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights stands ready to meet this vital need. But we can’t do it without supporters and allies like you, and I thank you for your past support. This holiday season, I invite you to dig a little deeper and recommit to join us as a champion for civil rights in Chicago and across our state.
Thank you for your generous support.