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An Open Letter On Charleston From UDC Law Deans

Tuesday, June 23, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jordan Uhl
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Photo courtsey of Lee Ruk/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Jordan Uhl
E:; P: 202-274-5257

Washington, DC—Dear Members of the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law Community:

Last Wednesday, a gunman walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot and killed nine people who had come to a prayer meeting.   This attack, like the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and so many other acts of terror against African American churches, institutions and people has deeply saddened us.  While we are heartened by the renewal and affirmation of humanity demonstrated by the service at Emmanuel AME yesterday and the gathering of people of good will holding hands across the Ravenel Bridge, we know that the threat has not passed.

The last year has seen an awaking in mass media and in the broader public consciousness of the role that race continues to play in America. Media coverage has at long last validated the daily experience of so many in the African American and Hispanic communities. The killings in Charleston demonstrate the power and persistence of hate.  While there has without doubt been much progress over the last 50 years and we owe a great debt of gratitude to those who risked much and struggled tirelessly for equality, we still live in a country in which we need to be reminded that Black Lives Matter. 

As a Law School community, we have dedicated ourselves to ending inequality based on race, gender, disability, sexual identity, class, age or other characteristics which have led to discrimination.  The power of using legal skills in a time of crisis was recently demonstrated by students when they rapidly organized to provide legal help during the uprising in Baltimore. The power of action was further shown when students and faculty traveled to Texas this summer to address the crisis on the border for immigrant families. Through clinics and other experiential learning programs, we make an ongoing and meaningful difference in many lives. Our students are answering a call to “practice law, promote justice and change lives.”

We write to you because we know that the entire Law School community is affected by these events and that we are each mourning lost members of the Emmanuel AME Church in our own way.  For those who are here this summer and for everyone who is returning in the fall, these events must not be the excuse for despair but the cause for us to rededicate ourselves to creating a more just society.  

As a Law School we must contribute through our volunteer work, clinics, experiential learning and scholarship.  In coming months, as an institution, we look forward to finding ways in groups small and large, formal and informal to meet and figure out how we can make a difference.  But one thing is for certain, the struggle for justice is long – maybe permanent – so it is essential that each of us commit to be the best students, teachers, scholars and advocates that we can be.


Dean Shelley Broderick

Dean Laurie Morin

Dean Annamaria Steward

Dean William Nelson

Dean Jonathan Smith     

Dean Vivian Canty

Dean Helen Frazer

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