Nashville Takes on Movement Lawyering

Last Saturday, February 23rd, Law for Black Lives had an amazing evening with organizers, law students, and lawyers from the Nashville region. We convened movement organizations and the lawyers they collaborate with to discuss their wins, challenges, lessons and along with the role lawyers can play in ongoing organizing efforts.

Organizers from Community Oversight Now  spoke about last November’s victory and the role lawyers played in writing the amendment to create Nashville's Community Oversight Board. The amendment that voter's in Nashville overwhelmingly voted for in last November's election. They went on to discuss ways that lawyers and other organizers could get involved in their fight to prevent the Tennessee State Legislature from stripping away the Community Oversight Board's subpoena powers. We also heard from organizers from Free Hearts who discussed their participatory defense program and how criminal defense attorneys can support their efforts to work with people who are facing charges and the people who support them to build power and impact the outcome of their case. Finally, BLM Nashville organizers discussed their relationship with the law and lawyers and how it impacts their work. The ended their discussion by sharing the challenges they faced and lessons they learned in their successful fight for clemency for Cyntoia Brown.

Lawyers who worked with Community Oversight Now, Free Hearts, and Southerners on New Ground discussed what it means for them to be movement lawyers who collaborate with these organizations. For them, it takes innovation, trust, a willingness to take risks, and real relationships to collaborate with lawyers and obtain meaningful victories. Law students from Vanderbilt Law School and Belmont University College of Law shared talked about their law school experience and how it has shaped their ideas about their role in movement and went on to ask for opportunities to use their skills to serve local movement.

We concluded our evening with an invitation from organizers to join them in their work to both fight against these destructive systems and collaborate with them to create institutions and alternatives that align with their vision.