In early February, Legal Voice’s entire staff set aside our work and walked to a nearby Seattle conference space for a day-long race equity retreat. This was the latest step in our commitment over the last two years to envision and implement a blueprint that centers the voices and lived experiences of communities of color and holds each other and our organization accountable in our pledge to do this important work.
Legal Voice has historically been a white and white-led organization, and as we work toward becoming an anti-racist organization with greater diversity across our staffing and programming, we’ve transitioned our work in significant ways.
We implemented a community lawyering model, which centers those most impacted by systemic injustice and acknowledges that the process is just as important as the outcome in building transformative community power. We changed our case selection criteria to ensure that the cases we take are reviewed through a race equity lens. And we reexamined our old hiring and personnel policies and created new ones. We’ve also had difficult conversations about authenticity, microaggressions, allyship, and our role and value in movement-building
And yet, out of these sometimes challenging discussions, a remarkable unanimity arose among our staff. Guided by Michelle Majors, a consultant who has helped lead us through this journey, we identified and agreed upon three core race equity values.
As we strive to embed these values across our organization, we
are excited to share them with you so Legal Voice’s stakeholders
and supporters can be with us on our journey.
1. We are guided by anti-racist values. White supremacy and
systemic racism are deeply embedded in the history, fabric,
and institutions of this country, including the legal system.
A strong anti-racist analysis is fundamentally important to
our mission and we must actively work to dismantle systems
of oppression and institutional barriers that have prevented
women of color and LGBTQ+ people of color from living their
lives with dignity, autonomy, and equality.
2. We honor and support the self-determination of
communities of color and other marginalized communities,
and aim to build their power. We recognize that long-lasting
social change comes from the leadership and power of
communities of color and other marginalized communities
in social movements. We therefore intend to leverage our
resources, technical knowledge, and role within the legal
system in support of these movements.
3. We value building authentic relationships with and being
accountable to communities of color and other marginalized
communities. True collective power can be realized only when
people feel fully seen and valued for their unique contributions.
We honor the diversity and lived experiences of those we are in
partnership with as a guiding principle in our work, and we are
committed to building long-lasting, meaningful relationships
in authentic, community-centered ways.
Dismantling racism and white supremacy is an ongoing, evolving
process that will require continual self-examination and organizational change. As we’ve joined with thousands of people in condemning the recent police violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples, we commit to this ongoing internal work and strive to show up as allies and partners with communities who are most affected by systemic racism and injustice. We invite you to join us and engage in this work, which is now more
critical than ever.