Black History Month Rising

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February 2, 2022

On the dawn of Black History Month, the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) is reflecting on our legacy of providing Black-centered legal services.

EBCLC has always aimed for Black liberation. This has been evident since our founding in 1988 when a group of Berkeley law students heard Ronald Reagan’s dog whistle and acted to disrupt its harm. We believed then, and still believe today, that systems have to be reimagined in order for African Americans to thrive. In 2005, recognizing the acute damage of the War on Drugs in Black communities, we were proud to partner with Congresswoman Barbara Lee to launch one of California’s first criminal record expungement services which would become known as “Clean Slate.” In 2016, we advocated to end municipal fines and fees because of voluminous data on how it seized African American wealth and, in doing so, launched a nationwide examination on how cities- from Oakland, CA to Ferguson, MO- prey on their Black neighborhoods. Today, in 2022, we push for the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, with the intention to redress decades of gentrification and displacement of Berkeley’s African American community. We are also leveraging our power to address anti-blackness in law schools. We know that we are a part of a legal profession that is too often more invested in maintaining the status quo of Black suffering instead of disrupting it. We recognize that these victories are in furtherance of racial equity. Solutions that center and directly uplift Black people, will benefit everyone.

We are an organization that has proudly been Black women-led for most of our 34 years of existence. In 2022, Tiffany Thomas became EBCLC’s first African American Board Chair, and we are actively recruiting more African American attorneys to join our team. We are at work on ourselves, and on our networks.

This Black History Month, we hope you will join us in deliberating on EBCLC’s history and its future. We are grateful to our Black clients, who ensure our organization stays true to its origins. We are grateful to our African American staff, law students, Board members, and partners who have sustained us. This work would not be possible without all of the communities who have shown allyship to EBCLC throughout our decades. We thank you!

We wish you a happy and reflective, Black History Month.