2021 GRITS Programming

Welcome Event

Eviction and Housing Justice in the COVID Era

Y. Frank Southall Lead Organizer at the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative

Y. Frank Southall is the Lead Organizer and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (JPNSI) in New Orleans, LA. At JPNSI, Southall manages the organization’s organizing and community engagement strategies. His primary organizing focuses are around evictions, renters’ rights and other matters related to housing justice.

Prior to working at JPNSI, Southall worked at Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans in the Freret Neighborhood Center, where he focused on intergenerational community-building, youth organizing and programs designed to improve quality of life. He has also worked at Tulane University’s Center for Public Service, Public Allies, Working America and other organizations focused on social, racial and economic justice. Southall has presented workshops, research and participated on panels at Tulane University, Auburn University, the Highlander School & for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to name a few. Additionally, his activist work has been featured in publications such as “Teen Vogue”, “Curbed”, “Vice News” and more.

In his free time, he serves as the elected representative for the 94th District on the Louisiana Democratic State Central Coordinating committee, is a co-founder of an emerging tool lending library in New Orleans and is on the board of directors for the New Orleans Food Cooperative. Southall studied Journalism and African-American Studies at the University of Cincinnati.


Crimmigration in the Carceral State

Through an expansive network of federal and local policing, the carceral state constantly entraps immigrants, especially immigrants of color. For example, in the past year alone, over 15,000 immigrants in Texas have been detained by the Department of Homeland Security. This panel of legal practitioners and community organizers will discuss the day-to-day havoc the system wreaks in communities of color, especially in the context of COVID-19. Their work within the intersection of criminal law and immigration addresses the xenophobic underpinnings of this civil mass incarceration system with a clear goal—the full and immediate abolition of immigration detention.

Environmental Justice in the American South

According to the EPA, “Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

Unfortunately, this definition of environmental justice represents an ideal, not a reality.

For example, in America, “White people experience a “pollution advantage,” where they exposed to 17% less air pollution than is caused by their consumption. Back and LatinX people, on average, bear a “pollution burden” of 56% and 63% excess exposure, respectively, relative to the exposure caused by their consumption.

In particular, the southern United States is rife with environmental injustice — from the proliferation of petrochemical facilities to the contamination of drinking water and even the impact of climate change-induced disasters. Black and brown communities too often face threats to their health and safety from environmental pollutants, toxics, and degradation.

This panel will explore the work being done by environmental justice lawyers, organizers, and advocates across the South fighting for the right to a safe, clean, and livable environment for their communities.

Intersection of Disability Rights and Racial Justice

Disability and racial justice are often discussed as separate and distinct topics, while the people and communities who face discrimination at the intersection are hidden. In reality, race, disability, and class have influenced each other to create structures of oppression, manifesting as white and able supremacy.

This panel will recontextualize disability in the legal profession, explore how communities of color express disability, and challenge everyone to unpack their own ableism. Join Caren Short, Talila Lewis (TL), and our moderator, Professor Lucy Wood, as they compare avenues of advocacy and discuss how various work can lead to radical racial and disability justice. 

Live captioning and ASL interpreters have been secured for this panel. 

Labor Organizing: From the US South to the Global South

Capitalism in the 21st century is accelerating its power. Employers continue to accumulate capital and exploit vulnerable communities, forcing many to relocate to the Global North. But just as the American workforce grows and diversifies, the US government offers workers little to no protection. In Janus v. AFSCME, The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of right-to-work laws, which are intended to financially weaken unions. While employers receive trillions of dollars in bailout money to offset the impacts of COVID-19, many workers continue to work in unsafe conditions.

In this panel, we will discuss the theoretical and practical work labor lawyers will need to do to organize and stand up for workers in increasingly hostile environments.

Not Policy, Power! Movement Lawyering in Action

For Movement lawyers, lawyering is a tool to be harnessed and leveraged in support of movements fighting for greater power in a system that disproportionately concentrates power among the white, wealthy, and corporate. In essence, a lawyer is accountable to goals of movements. For these lawyers, organizers and leaders, the primary goal is not to change laws or policies but to change the disproportionate allocations of power that create and reinforce the systems of oppression that produce unjust laws and policies.

This panel will be a discussion and reflection between organizers, movement lawyers, and community leaders on how they work together, including the practical challenges and strengths of this theory of social change in action.

Organizing in Law School

The traditional law school experience often feels, at best, an inadequate training for social justice-minded students, and at worst, a toxic environment that favors privilege over equity and reinforces oppressive norms. This panel, Organizing in Law School, will highlight the efforts of some law students and groups, who have resisted this traditional experience, by actively engaging in efforts to organize around urgent issues outside and inside the law school.

Please join this conversation where law students and young lawyers will share stories, resources, advice, and strategies for organizing while in law school.

The 2021 Texas Legislature and Impact on Women’s Equity

Progress in Texas for issues affecting women such as funding family planning, equal economic opportunity for women and justice for sexual assault survivors has taken steps forward and back in recent years. Join the American Constitution Society (ACS) and GRITS for a candid discussion about what women are facing in the 2021 Texas legislative session regarding specifically access to reproductive healthcare and criminal justice reforms.

Towards Justice: Decarceration, Abolition, and Transformative Justice

Among the monstrosities 2020 uncovered is the need to abolish systems of incarceration. While COVID-19 raged inside prisons, jails, and detention centers, our government’s callousness toward those incarcerated continued and many people (are continuing) to die. Just last week, Texas’ winter storm left millions of Texans without power, causing thousands of incarcerated Texans to suffer the worst of consequences. Calls to defund the police are a great start toward a world where life is valued, but sometimes exclude our incarcerated neighbors. This panel will focus on abolition, what it’ll take for us to dismantle systems of punitive punishment, and why abolition is critical to a world where we’re all free.

2021 GRITS Schedule

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