UCLA NLG Hosts Second Annual Liberation Lawyering Conference

By Sasha Novis, Student National Vice President & UCLA NLG

UCLA NLG students show sex workers support at the SB233 photo booth.

NLG law students from across Southern California hosted the second annual Liberation Lawyering Conference at UCLA School of Law on March 2, 2019. Entirely planned and run by students, the event encouraged conversation between attorneys, students, and non-attorney organizers, uplifting voices and topics not traditionally discussed in law school.

More than 200 law students, law professors, practicing attorneys, and community advocates and organizers came to the law school for the all-day program.

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, NLG Past President and a human rights attorney with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, opened the morning session with an inspiring speech about her own journey to becoming an attorney. Bannan encouraged the students of color in the room to join the legal profession despite the obstacles they may face and reminded attendees that, “there is no greater urgency than now. We need all of you to show up… to challenge unchecked power.”

Dr. Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Los Angeles and a professor at California State University Los Angeles, offered the morning keynote address, which was co-sponsored by La Raza Law Students Association as part of their For People of Color Conference. Abdullah rallied students to use their legal skills and passion to challenge fundamentally oppressive institutions and advocate unceasingly on behalf of Black and other marginalized communities.

Dr. Abdullah reminded the crowd that people and movements, not traditional organizations, are at the forefront of liberation movements. “I want you to think of yourselves as movement lawyers, engaged in the lifelong struggle for liberation that we will eventually win,” she said. “It is our sacred duty to work towards our freedom.” Dr. Abdullah thanked the NLG Los Angeles chapter, and in particular, its ED, Kath Rogers, for their tireless support of BLM activists like herself who have been arrested for their political actions.

Workshop sessions focused on affirmative action; self-determination for Puerto Rico; decriminalization of sex work; abolition of prisons and police; intersectional immigrants’ rights advocacy; animal rights; and achieving economic justice through worker-owned cooperatives. Kath Rogers and Addie Tinnel of the Los Angeles NLG Chapter offered a Legal Observer training to round out the day.

NLG students led by Jordan Palmer (UCLA Law Class of 2021) created a photobooth to show support for SB233, a California bill proposed by Senator Scott Wiener that would help protect sex workers from arrest.

Organizers of the event include conference chair Sasha Novis’ 19, NLG-UCLA co-chairs Stephano Medina ‘20  and Rachel Pendleton ‘20, as well as Erik Berner  ‘20, Ary Hansen ‘21, Nicole Hansen ‘21, Samantha Keng ‘21, Loyola Law student Chris Kissel ‘20, Tori Lew ‘20, Lydia Nicholson ‘21, Jordan Palmer ‘21, Simon Sherred ‘21, Ihaab Syed ‘19 and Sara Yufa ‘21. ■