Black Lives Matter: My Hopes and Commitments

January 24, 2021 Update: If there are any attorneys or law students who identify as Black Americans who are interested in nonprofit corporate and tax-exemption laws and who’d like to pursue this area of practice, I’m committing an hour each week to being a resource. Please ping [contact] me if I can be of service.

Black Lives Matter” – While we know this simple phrase is and has always been critically important, it has never been adopted and embraced in our country’s institutions (including those in the nonprofit sector). When highly visible, egregious, gut-wrenching cases of anti-blackness come to our attention, many of us repeat the phrase and provide other symbolic gestures of supporting the movement.

Some of us who support more groundbreaking change may even repeat more controversial phrases like “Defund the Police” and republish voices we admire (most commonly, Martin Luther King, Jr.). But if that’s the extent of our participation in the racial justice movement, it’s largely performative, and for some, may be more a public relations ploy than an affirmative act for justice. I have so much to learn in this area, but I want to do more than that, and I know my colleagues at our firm want to do more too.

I hope all of us who believe Black Lives Matter recognize this moment as a tipping point for radical improvement in our institutions that immediately need to be more equitable and inclusive.

I hope we each become more informed about Black Lives Matter, primarily by reading and listening to Black people and what they’ve worked hard and sacrificed to make available to all of us.

I hope those of us in privileged positions use our privilege and power to live our values. And if we truly believe that Black Lives Matter is fundamentally important, we work quickly and substantially towards reimagining, reforming, and restructuring our institutions. Not just our governmental institutions, but all of our private institutions too.

On my part, I pledge to:

  • educate myself much more about racial justice and how it impacts everything in our communities and nation;
  • amplify the voices of leaders of oppressed groups, including through my writings, my interviews and speaking engagements; our firm’s social media channels, and my personal interactions;
  • research and write more on ways charities and foundations can center their organizations on both mission and core values, which can more explicitly call out for equity and inclusion;
  • advocate for substantive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and priorities in all of our institutions;
  • support, personally and professionally, more organizations that advocate for racial justice and necessary changes in the law to advance racial justice;
  • create opportunities for young Black persons, including those who are interested in nonprofit and exempt organizations law; and
  • integrate racial justice more fully in my lectures and class materials for the Business of Nonprofits course at Columbia.

And, at this time, I pledge to focus these activities on advancing the Black Lives Matter movement and the voices of Black people. I hope others join me in creating their own action lists that will evolve (as mine will) as we get more engaged and the movement advances.

12 Past Readings, Listenings, Viewings that Shaped My Early Thinking

Admittedly, a pretty basic list but powerful and accessible nonetheless:

Roots (miniseries) and Roots: The Saga of an American Family – Alex Haley

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird – Robert Mulligan

A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Letter from a Birminghan Jail – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Malcolm X – Spike Lee

Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

Do The Right Thing – Spike Lee

Boyz n the Hood – John Singleton

I’ll start to list more recent influences and current resources each week in a new Black Lives Matter section on our weekly Tweets of the Week posts.

NEO Law Group Commitments

Our firm’s commitments to Black Lives Matter can be found here.