Blog Posts: Mississippi Trip 2010

56th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

While it is hard to pin point one moment of the trip that I consider my favorite, one experience sticks out in my mind. May 17 was the first day we participated in collecting data concerning the state of the education system in Indianola, Mississippi. As I learned about the severe racial disparities, extremely high drop out rates, corruption, unfair practices, and lack of resources I could only think of one thing-today was the 56th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and we are still facing similar issues concerning race and education in our country. This thought not only made me incredibly disheartened, but it made me realize that the work my fellow students and I were doing was more important than ever. As if to hammer this thought in more deeply, two of the people I met that day, both Caucasian females, expressed severely pessimistic and racist attitudes toward the school system and the racial divide. They felt, to put it mildly, that "it is what it is, and that is how it's always been and always will be." As she tried to impart her "wisdom" on me, I responded with the fact that if many people in our history shared the same ideas that she was expressing, the world would be a very different place. I also told her that, while she was entitled to have her own opinions, I knew that change was not only possible, but it was inevitable and impending. Despite her pessimistic comments, I walked out of her shop with a newly renovated hope and energy to continue our work knowing that somewhere down the line it was going to have an impact.

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No Comments | Posted by Lauren Anne Gebhard on Thu. June 3, 2010 4:21 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

Community Lawyering Model

I was impressed by the Community Lawyering Model used by MCJ which emphasizes the need for residents of the community to play an active role in developing solutions for their problems. I think sometimes underprivileged groups become frustrated when attorneys try to diagnose their ailments and the best course of action to remedy it. This frustration is made worse when the attorneys are from outside the community and as a result, fail to understand regional and cultural nuances. The Community Lawyering Model sees attorneys as facilitators who help execute the community's suggested solution rather than allowing the attorneys to propose the solution. I like this model because I think the residents will be more invested in solving their problems if they played a substantial role in coming up with the solution.

MCJ took this concern into consideration when it decided to survey parents about the school district and their concerns prior to deciding on a solution. The survey asked parents if they were open to new discipline policies and if they had any suggestions. Every parent I surveyed seemed eager to help and answer questions because I think they realized what we were trying to do. They realized we were trying to make a change and we valued their opinion in making these changes. The main skill I will take away from this community lawyering model is the ability to listen intently to clients. In order for clients to be able to contribute to the solution, attorneys must listen to the needs and concerns so that they can be incorporated. Superior listening skills are integral to being a true advocate which helps advance the community lawyering model.

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No Comments | Posted by Erika Nicole Jones on Thu. May 27, 2010 3:46 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

Education Law Project

Law students are also assisting MCJ with an education law project. Students spent the past two days surveying parents' experiences with public county schools in various Delta school districts. They spoke with parents and grandparents regarding issues such as involvement in parent-teacher organizations, special education services, methods of communication with school officials, and discipline policies. Students canvassed retail stores, government offices, courthouses and other community locations, learning more about schools in the Delta area.

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No Comments | Posted by Katherine H. Kershaw on Thu. May 20, 2010 11:37 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

Catfish on Parade

Catfish on Parade is a public art project in Belzoni, Miss. Pictured above with our group is "D. Fin-der, Esquire," sponsored by Garrard and Trotter law firm.

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No Comments | Posted by Katherine H. Kershaw on Wed. May 19, 2010 10:00 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

Greetings from the Mississippi Delta!

Eight students in UNC School of Law's pro bono program made the trip to Jackson, Miss., to collaborate with the Mississippi Center for Justice this week. The Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys, community leaders and pro bono attorneys, the center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.

On Monday, we met with center staff attorneys, partners and community advocates to learn more about legal issues the Mississippi Delta community is facing. The Center is involved in a civil suit against a housing authority that dramatically increased the rent of over 300 tenants without notice. A majority of these tenants are elderly, disabled, low-income or unemployed and are living on fixed incomes. The impromptu rent increase is now forcing many to leave the homes they have known for years.

We drove two hours north of Jackson to Cleveland, Miss., where many of the tenants named as plaintiffs on the lawsuit reside. The goal was to collect information and signatures from as many plaintiffs as possible, in response to interrogatories filed by the defendants. When we arrived, there was already a group waiting for us outside the church. We quickly set up workstations and students began meeting one-on-one with plaintiffs to gather data and answer questions. It was a great opportunity for them to see their civil procedure class come to life by gaining practical experience answering interrogatories.

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No Comments | Posted by Katherine H. Kershaw on Wed. May 19, 2010 6:15 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

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