By Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, Outgoing NLG President
As my time as President of the National Lawyers Guild comes to an end, I reflect on the many Guild stories I’ve heard from you, our members, and many others across the world. Whether in Havana, Palestine, Atlanta or the Bronx, the stories of how the NLG has showed up when it matters the most—when no one else would—are abundant and filled with gratitude. I have been stopped by activists who were provided legal defense by Guild lawyers who never blinked twice, by human rights defenders around the world who spoke first hand of what Guild solidarity with their struggles meant, and with law students who draw inspiration from 81 years of movement lawyering as they embark on their legal careers. The deep reverence and respect the NLG has around the world has showed up wherever I go, and more recently it is often accompanied by a request to do more. As our communities become increasingly under attack, they often look to us to stand with them. They are looking for allies and lawyers who will not question, hesitate or waiver. They are looking for the Guild.
I have learned a tremendous amount from our Guild elders about everything that they have seen and fought. I’m reminded that while we may feel this particular flavor of repression more intensely, it certainly isn’t new. They remind me that we have been here before, and we came out on the other side. Neither state violence nor profit-driven state policy is new, and the Guild’s principles of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist lawyering have always fought to dismantle both. That should bring us all great comfort as we stand ready to fight with all we have against a morally bankrupt and abusive state.
The best place to connect (or reconnect), with this 81-year history is at our 2018 #Law4thePeople Convention, coming up October 31 – November 4 in Portland, OR. This year’s convention features keynote speaker Kshama Sawant, the first Socialist member of the Seattle City Council, and for the third year in a row, the Arthur Kinoy Award goes to a former political prisoner—this year to Herman Bell, former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. The Law for the People Award will go to the National Immigration Project of the NLG.
The convention is also where we refuel ourselves by connecting with colleagues and compañeros/as, develop our legal and political analysis, and hear from brilliant activists and lawyers about the work they’re doing across the country and world, from housing rights to anti-colonialism to immigrant justice. And if you aren’t familiar with our many national committees, you learn more about them here. Many committees meet during the convention where you can hear more about their work and see how you can get involved. Don’t miss the chance to connect again with 81 years of radical lawyering! Register now at nlg.org/convention.
Thank you for the chance to work with you these past three years and to get to know your stories and struggles more intimately. As the concept of Ubuntu expresses, “I am because you are.” I hope to see you all at the convention, and in these streets! ¡Pa’lante mi gente! ■
Photo: From the NLG-NYC Chapter: “NLG-NYC honored three Champions of Justice on June 8 at the Angel Orensanz Center for the Arts on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. From left: Nancy Stearns, legendary feminist lawyer whose Center for Constitutional Rights cases led to ending restrictions on abortion in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island before Roe v. Wade; Natasha Bannan, NLG president, attorney at Latino Justice PRLDEF, and a founder of Ayuda Legal Huracan Maria; and NYU Law student Kyle Barron, recipient of the NYC Chapter’s Law Student Recognition Award for her work with the New Sanctuary Coalition.” (Photo: Jefferson Siegel)