Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights Speakers Focus Attention on Social Justice

The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights speakers series put social justice squarely in the spotlight. Among the highlights: Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and co-author of the award-winning book, "Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror," spoke about the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, and prisoners held there today who have been "cleared for release or transfer," yet languish as detainees due to a "legal black hole." The inaugural Dean A. Robb Public Interest Lecture Series kicked off with speaker Arthur Bryant, executive Justice and the Public Justice Foundation, and opened with an introduction by Robb, the noted civil rights attorney and social activist for whom the series was named. Robb is a Wayne Law alumnus, as is Michael Pitt of Pitt McGehee Palmer Rivers & Golden PC, the law firm that made the series possible. He, too, spoke at the event. Bryant urged law students to consider public interest law and stand up for their beliefs. Renowned social justice advocate and author john a. powell, head of the University of California Berkeley's Haas Diversity Research Center and a faculty member at the UC Berkeley School of Law, talked about race as a social construct in our society, and of how any ultimate healing isn't just "a political project, but also a spiritual project." Powell lowercases his name as a tribute to African-Americans who gained independence from slaveholders and reclaimed their personal authority by removing the capitals from the names given them by their oppressors. "Voices of the Dream," a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, featured author Clarence B. Jones, a former speechwriter, friend and legal counsel to King; and Wayne Law alumnus and author Gregory Reed, '74, '79, founder of the Keeper of the Word Foundation and a former attorney to Rosa Parks. Federal Judge Ann Claire Williams told her story of growing up in Detroit and of breaking boundaries as a woman of color during her 37-year legal career. She was appointed by President Clinton in 1999 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh District, the first African-American woman to serve on the bench of that court. This article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 edition of Wayne Lawyer Magazine. To view, please click here.

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