Last summer, following several national news reports of the senseless deaths of African-American men and the senseless deaths of law enforcement officers and increasing tension and strife regarding racial issues nationally and locally, GRAWA Immediate Past President Jill Paperno approached the GRAWA Board about these events and what, if anything, GRAWA should do in response to help our community.
The GRAWA Board reached the conclusion that our first step should be to provide an opportunity for our members to meet to talk about these matters, and whether our organization should attempt to have a role. An invitation was sent to our membership, and interested members held their first meeting in August 2016. The group has since been named GRAWA’s Social and Racial Justice Committee and has met monthly since their first meeting.
The Social and Racial Justice Committee is seeking to provide information and opportunities for our members and the legal community in Rochester in an effort to open the local dialogue on racial and social justice issues. The group held its first event last month in partnership with the Monroe County Bar Association and the Rochester Black Bar Association. It was a showing of the film “I’m Not Racist … Am I?” — a feature documentary about how the next generation is going to confront racism.
The filmmakers asked 12 teenagers from New York City to come together for one school year to talk about race and privilege in a series of workshops and in conversations with friends and family members. The film has been shown at schools throughout Monroe County in an effort to help people to explore their own feelings about race and racism. It was shared with our bar associations by the West Irondequoit School District. The event included a facilitated discussion following the film. The program was well-attended by members of all the local bars and a number of members expressed interest in continuing to work on addressing issues of race.
The Committee is working on more events, including setting up speakers on a variety of topics. The Committee members also have shared materials with each other on social and racial issues, which GRAWA hopes to post on its website soon. One article that the Committee would invite all to read is “Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” by Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.
GRAWA is proud by the efforts of Jill Paperno and the Committee thus far, and is encouraged by the interest that has been shown the Committee’s efforts. If you are interested in joining the Social and Racial Justice Committee and/or assisting in its efforts, please don’t hesitate to reach out to GRAWA and let us know.
Pamela Reynolds is an associate attorney in the Rochester office of Littler Mendelson and president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys.