By Prof. Alicia Plerhoples
Pivoting to Represent Nonprofits Confronting the Pandemic and Anti-Black Racism
During a typical semester in the Social Enterprise & Nonprofit Law Clinic (SENLC) at Georgetown Law, law students represent D.C.-area social enterprises and nonprofits working in a range of fields, including social services, education, and international development. During this atypical semester, SENLC students have not only pivoted to virtual representation, they have also sharpened the focus of their representations to serve organizational clients who are responsive to the converging COVID-19 pandemic and our national reckoning with anti-Black racism. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the racial wealth gap, disparities in access to capital for Black-owned businesses, as well as workplace and educational inequities between a professional workforce who can work remotely and a working class who cannot.
Recognizing that the pandemic is not only a public health crisis, but also an educational and economic crisis that has disproportionately impacted communities of color, and heeding our moral obligation to work to dismantle these inequities, this semester SENLC students are representing:
(1) A newly-formed Virginia nonprofit that is providing college- and master-level tutors to low-income K-12 students to enhance their online education during COVID-19 school closures. The nonprofit is in its pilot phase and is operating with the support of Senator Warner (D-VA) who hopes to champion it nationally under the AmeriCorps umbrella;
(2) A D.C. legal aid organization committed to saving the homes of D.C. residents through pro bono foreclosure legal defense;
(3) A Virginia nonprofit focused on educational equity by providing scholarships and social-emotional learning resources to low-income college students;
(4) A D.C. nonprofit whose mission is to empower, prepare, and advocate for Black women in the quantitative sciences, including economics, finance, and data sciences; and
(5) A D.C. nonprofit offering free home ownership workshops and financial resources for teachers and other employees of D.C. Public Schools, 70% of whom are people of color and 50% of whom are Black, to allow educators to live where they work and build intergenerational wealth.
SENLC students are representing these clients on grant funding, governance, contracts, liability protection, and compliance issues. The Clinic will continue to work with organizational clients confronting the economic and educational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-Black racism for the foreseeable future and has plans to work with mutual aid organizations and worker cooperatives in the spring semester.