Zoë Polk is the Executive Director of the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC). EBCLC is one of the Bay Area’s largest and most effective legal service providers and educational clinics. As Executive Director, Zoë leads EBCLC’s efforts to provide client-centered, holistic legal advocacy, dismantle structural racism and build a resilient and healthy community. Zoë took the helm of EBCLC in January 2020, becoming the fourth executive director in the organization’s 32-year history.
Zoë’s motivation to achieve racial equity is rooted in her own lived experience as Black, cis, queer woman and navigating the intersections of those identities. She is committed to fighting the impact of decades of race neutral public policies, which were supposed to undo the harm of racism but only further impoverished communities of color. Throughout her career, she has prioritized opportunities to use the law as a tool to address the legacy of centuries of racism in employment, neighborhoods, schools and the criminal justice system.
From litigating federal civil rights cases about police misconduct, school expulsion, housing discrimination, and Native American tribal disenrollment, to providing crucial consultation to the United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Zoë has successfully advanced racial justice initiatives in the Bay Area and around the world. As the Deputy Director and Lead Policy Advisor at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, she helped the City of San Francisco pivot from race neutral policies to racial equity. She co-wrote the San Francisco’s first Fair Chance Ordinance, and launched the city’s Cannabis Equity Program, Office of Racial Equity, and the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Office.
At EBCLC, Zoë leads a team of 80+ staff members in serving 8,000+ clients per year to reimagine justice and advance systemic policy change. She serves as a Berkeley Law faculty member overseeing the training of 150+ students each year through EBCLC’s eight teaching clinics: the Clean Slate/Reentry Legal Services Clinic, the Community Economic Justice Clinic, the Consumer Justice Clinic, the Education Advocacy Clinic, the Health & Welfare Clinic, the Housing Clinic, the Immigration Clinic, and the Youth Defender Clinic.
Zoë is a California- and District of Columbia-licensed attorney with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from Georgetown University and a Juris Doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law. Zoë also worked for 8 years as the National Program Director of Outdoor Afro, where she cultivated African-American connections to nature. Her interpretive hikes weaved Black history into each step, and her leadership development program trained volunteers across the country to be ambassadors for the outdoors.
When not working, Zoë, her partner, Lillian, and their sons, Quincy and Forrest, spend as much time outdoors as possible, particularly where we can hike, swim, camp, explore farmers markets, kayak, or cross-country ski.