President’s Column: Gearing Up for the 2016 #Law4thePeople Convention

By Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan

As I write this column, I have just finished collecting signatures for petitions and participating in a monthly rally to demand the release of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, who has just entered his 35th year in prison. At a rally in New York City’s Lower East Side, I met members of the NLG-NYC chapter, folks who have been represented by NLG members, or just expressed their deep appreciation and respect for the Guild. Being in a space filled with community, culture, celebration, commitment and lucha, where we are all working to create a more just world, reminds me of why I was attracted to the Guild in the first place.

Nowhere is that made more evident than at our annual national convention, to be held this August 3-7 in NYC. Whether this is your first or 40th convention, you don’t want to miss this one! The NLG #Law4thePeople convention is perhaps the only space for the radical legal community to connect, strategize, activate, energize, engage, laugh and support each other and the work in which we are individually and collectively engaged. Through our 20+ workshops and major panels carefully chosen to highlight Guild work, you will get to participate in conversations on everything from voting rights in the south to people’s human rights tribunals, to building a sustainable and progressive law practice. There will be workshops on political prisoners, defending Palestine, deconstructing the policing and surveillance of Muslim communities, a civil Gideon for housing rights activists, and revisiting the urgency of Cuba and Venezuela for anti-imperialist movements.

For the first time, our keynote speaker will be a transgender woman of color, the inspirational and revolutionary organizer Elle Hearns. Elle is a Black, trans freedom fighter who is the Central Region Coordinator for GetEQUAL and is a strategic partner of #BlackLivesMatter. This year, we will be honoring another revolutionary freedom fighter with the Arthur Kinoy Award—freed political prisoner Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3. We will also be celebrating some of the best  among us at our annual banquet and throughout the convention with a number of awards, including Soffiyah Elijah, Audrey Bomse, Michael Deutsch, Javier Maldonado, Noelle Hanrahan, and Emily Bock.

In addition to a major panel discussion on how to “build the Guild,” you will notice that this year’s plenary discussions are centered around a series of proposed amendments and resolutions intended to improve the organizational structure, effectiveness and growth of the organization to ensure we are meeting the needs of the communities we represent. Next year is our 80th anniversary, and the leadership of the Guild is deeply committed to ensuring its sustainability. I hope you’ll join the highest decision-making body—the general membership meetings at the plenaries—and engage in the conversations about how to build the Guild.

Lastly, no gathering is complete without celebration and culture. There will be ample opportunity at this year’s convention to connect with your fellow Guild members, celebrate, attend receptions and parties, and even have some time on your own to explore NYC with your fellow compañeras and compañeros. This year, we will be hosting a welcome reception at the Center for Cuban Studies to kick off the convention on August 3rd. The annual student party and committee receptions will remind us that it isn’t a revolution if we can’t dance! As I like to often say, we struggle so that we don’t have to, meaning the purpose of our work is not to struggle, but to celebrate the times with each other we don’t have to.

I hope to see each one of you this August in NYC where summertime is celebrated like no other city! I hope to meet you, learn about your work and hear your Guild story. Feel free to introduce yourself to me, give me your thoughts on how the Guild is doing, and share your ideas for how we can build a stronger Guild. Visit nlg.org/convention to learn more!

¡Nos vemos en Nueva York!

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