Dear members of the law school community,
This Sunday, we celebrate Juneteenth, marking 157 years since news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Texas, the last state in which African Americans remained enslaved. Juneteenth is a celebration of Black history, culture, contributions and freedom. It also is a time to honor the generations of enslaved people who withstood horrific atrocities and to remember the value of pursuing inclusive excellence every day. Events like the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York starkly remind us of the importance of our continued struggle to fight racism and anti-Blackness, create systemic change, and achieve racial equity.
This past year, the law school community has made strides in creating and supporting programs centered around the success and development of students with an emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and service. We assembled an Anti-Racism Working Group consisting of students, staff, faculty, and administrators who are working together to create bottom-up change inside the law school. We funded and will again offer this summer our Damon J. Keith Pre-Law Summer Institute, led by our Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Culture. The “Be the Change” experience, designed by the Black Law Students Association to expose Detroit youth to career opportunities in law, brought middle school students to Wayne Law to participate in a live debate with the mentorship of lawyers and law students. Wayne Law students from diverse backgrounds launched and sent a powerful message through their creative “Lawyers Look Like Me” campaign: lawyers can look like us, too. And we launched the Warrior Eviction Defense Corps which provides law students the opportunity to provide critical assistance to tenants facing eviction, an issue, in the words of Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, of “poverty and economic security” as well as “racial and gender justice.”
I hope all of you will observe Juneteenth by participating in events and reflecting on the value of the diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds that give our community its richness and depth. As you do so, I want to highlight the following activities:
- Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Marquita Chamblee, WSU’s Chief Diversity Officer, and the Juneteenth Planning Committee have put together an incredible slate of Juneteenth events. The opening celebration on Monday, June 13 at 2:00 pm, will feature music, a drumming and dance performance, and a mobile voter registration drive. The featured event on Wednesday, June 15, is a keynote speech by Dr. Errol Henderson, a professor of political science at Penn State University, and a Wayne State alumnus. Dr. Henderson will speak on the topic, “Did Slave Revolution Win the Civil War?” that focuses on the actions that enslaved Africans took to strengthen the Union efforts in the war and to deny resources to the Confederacy. Events will conclude on Friday, June 17, with a closing celebration and freedom march, beginning at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at the law school. See the full schedule and view resources provided by the Juneteenth planning committee.
- On Saturday, June 18, the Black Law Students Association will take over the law school’s Instagram account to discuss the importance of Juneteenth and more. Tune in throughout the day by following @WayneLawSchool.
- If you are looking for a good read, consider No Equal Justice, by Professor of Law Emeritus Edward Littlejohn and Professor of Law and Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights Peter J. Hammer. The book, just released, follows the story of George W. Crockett Jr. and how he fought racism and defended the constitutional rights of the oppressed.
I thank each of you for all that you do to help the law school realize the full potential of its community and all of its members. I am especially grateful to our student leaders for their constructive partnership and inspirational leadership as we continue to move the law school forward.
I wish you a meaningful Juneteenth and all the best for a restorative and productive summer.
Richard A. Bierschbach
Dean and Professor of Law