Amistad's Holiday Party is Thursday, December 26, 2013
at Spices Negril from 6 to 9pm
Annual Barrister's Ball - October 26, 2013
Amistad's Condolences to the Mandela Family
The Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association, with profound sadness, would like to offer its condolences to Mr. Nelson Mandela's family, as the world has received the news of his passing.
Trained in the study of law like Paul Robeson, Mr. Mandela dedicated his life to ensuring that black South Africans would enjoy the same humanity and constitutional privileges that white South Africans enjoyed. And Mr. Mandela used intellectual, military, and political campaigns to achieve his vision. And lest we forget, he also spent 27 years in prison, unbowed and unbroken.
Mr. Mandela's efforts brought racial Apartheid to its knees, which allowed democracy to take hold in South Africa, and allowed her to finally be embraced by the world's community. And by becoming the first black President of a truly unified South Africa, Mr. Mandela gave a new hope that peace, justice, democracy, and economic freedom could be had by all in South Africa, regardless of skin color, or gender.
It is no wonder that Mr. Mandela is deemed as one of the greatest leaders in world history. There is no doubt that Mr. Mandela has earned his eternal and lasting, peaceful sleep.
So the Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association says: "Thank you Mr. Mandela." Amistad will continue its work, with your vision and spirit in our hearts and minds. May you rest in peace.
(New York, July 15, 2013) On Saturday, July 13, 2013, a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of all charges concerning Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin. The verdict highlights a retro racial movement that is occurring in America. Given New York City’s “stop & frisk” program; the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 John Thompson decision; and Justice Antonin Scalia's recent Voting Rights Act ruling, it is clear that America is reverting back to the days where racial justice and racial progress for blacks took a back seat to antiquated notions of who is a "real and legitimate” American, and who can legitimately enjoy the fruits of being an American.
Amistad sends its prayers, encouragement and support to the Martin family. Not only have they lost their son, but they are also forced to deal with a system they believe has failed them. Saturday’s verdict was disappointing. However, as attorneys we understand that the judicial system is not flawless and there are numerous variables to be taken into consideration when a matter is tried. Those variables include the jurors, their beliefs and possible preconceptions, as well as the judge's rulings on the admissibility of evidence.
Sadly, however, the Zimmerman verdict reminds us of Frederick Douglass' great speech in 1883 regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The Court's decision was a deadly blow for blacks, who had hoped that America was turning the corner on the issue of racial justice and progress for blacks, but who instead came to realize that the Court was doubling down. The great despondent feeling blacks had on October 15, 1883 is the same feeling blacks are now experiencing following the Zimmerman verdict. A feeling that once again blacks are not endowed with the inalienable rights and humanity that other Americans take for granted. Mr. Douglass said it so well: “If liberty, with us, is yet but a name, our citizenship is but a sham, and our suffrage thus far only a cruel mockery . . .”
This year will mark the 50th anniversaries of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s seminal speech and the killing of four little girls who were bombed in a Birmingham church in 1963. Maybe you aren’t a great orator like Dr. King or Frederick Douglass. But what you can do is serve on a jury. Often there are too few blacks to choose from in jury pools. And statistically, 66% of white defendants are acquitted when a jury consist of all white members, while in comparison 81% of black defendants are convicted when the jury is comprised of solely white members.*
We believe that the prosecution of Zimmerman was a vital step in seeking to obtain justice for Trayvon Martin. However, the pursuit of justice should not stop there. The failure to achieve racial justice for Trayvon Martin and his family should be a call to action to be like Dr. King - a Drum Major for Justice. We join in the call for a continued investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Once again, we have lost another young black male in a senseless death without someone being held accountable for that death. Amistad is committed to improving the justice system so that Trayvon's death will not be in vain.
We understand that race has been and continues to play a role in our justice system. The devaluing of black lives is an issue that has shown itself in numerous situations across the nation. Trayvon Martin's death has highlighted the evident need for continued dialogue on race and the law. There is also an urgent need to reach solutions to the racial disparities that seem to be a common thread in our society. This is also a clear call for us as a community and a country to review and revisit the laws affecting gun violence and gun control.
Amistad commends the law firm Parks & Crump for its commitment to transparency and to the revealing of the truth of what really happened to Trayvon Martin. We join the Martin family and the community in mourning the loss of this young black male child. Amistad is committed to obtaining justice for him and all children in our community.
*See study results at http://qje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/04/15/qje.qjs014.full
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Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association Expresses Disappointment with the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act Opinion
(NEW YORK, June 28, 2013) This week the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling, rendered its opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. __ (Jun. 25, 2013). The Shelby decision involved Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.* Section 4 of the Act established a ?coverage formula? to determine which states and local governments properly fall under Section 5 of the Act, and thus were required to get approval before changing their voting laws. The justices ruled that Section 4 of the Act is unconstitutional, and that the formula, which has been used for decades, can no longer be used to establish preclearance requirements. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who delivered the Court?s opinion stated: ?Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.? In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated ?the Court today terminates the remedy that proved to be best suited to block that discrimination.? Justice Ginsburg?s dissent articulates the continued need for Section 5 preclearance for those states with poor voting rights records, and noted that in July 2006, the House and Senate passed the reauthorization of preclearance by overwhelming margins (House 390 to 33; Senate 98 to 0).
The ruling has already had potentially adverse consequences. Shortly after the decision, Texas announced that a voter identification law that had previously been blocked is now free to take effect immediately. Also, redistricting maps will no longer need federal approval, and ?changes in voting procedures in places that had been covered by the law, including those concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to ?after-the-fact? litigation.? See ?Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act,? New York Times, June 25, 2013.
Attorney General Eric Holder expressed his disappointment in the decision and stated: "Let me be very clear: we will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action -- using every legal tool that remains available to us -- against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court's ruling by hindering eligible citizens' full and free exercise of the [voting] franchise."
Amistad echoes the disappointment of the nation?s leaders with the Supreme Court?s decision.
Considering that Long Island is the home of the seminal voting rights decision Goosby v. Town of Hempstead, the organization would be remiss if we did not declare our opposition to rulings that potentially marginalize voters of color. In Goosby, a federal judge ordered the Town of Hempstead to replace its at-large voting system with six geographic districts, stating that the system then in place ?invidiously excludes Blacks from effective participation in political life.? The Goosby Second Circuit decision is available at this link: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-2nd-circuit/1437220.html.
Amistad, an affiliate of the National Bar Association (the ?NBA?) fully intends to stand alongside the NBA in its efforts to bear pressure on policy makers and on Congress to enact a viable Section 5 coverage mechanism that deals with continuing impediments to the fundamental right to vote. We stand in solidarity with organizations committed to ensuring that the right to vote is not impeded for anyone, particularly various members of communities in our backyard.
Submitted on behalf of the
Amistad Institute of the Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association
*The Court?s complete opinion is available at this link: http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/717250-supreme-courts-voting-rights-act-decision.html
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