Special Features

“Environmental Justice: What’s Race Got to Do With It?”  

The Symposium – View Recording

October 19, 2016

In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and countless other injustices around the United States, the Columbia Journal of Race and Law (“CJRL”) sought to engage in a conversation on the ways community members can be equipped with the necessary tools to recognize and address issues surrounding environmental justice. On October 19, 2016, Columbia Law School hosted “Environmental Justice: What’s Race Got to Do With It?”. This symposium gathered practitioners, academics, and community members to discuss the accomplishments and setbacks of the environmental justice movement. The symposium was executed in collaboration between the Journal and the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law (“CJEL”).

To view more information about the symposium, including the biographies of the panelists, please click here.

Professor Kendall Thomas, the Nash Professor of Law and the Director of the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia Law School, provided opening remarks. The symposium then featured two panels.

The first panel, “Planning the Roots of (In)Justice: Past Practices and Laws,” focused on an array of past policies including the use of lead paint in public housing buildings, placement of landfills and certain industries near communities of color, and lack of access to recycling in certain neighborhoods. This panel was moderated by Professor Michael Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and the Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School.

The panelists were:

  • Christine Appah-Gyamfi – Senior Staff Attorney, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest;
  • Edward Lloyd – Evan M. Frankel Clinical Professor in Environmental Law, Columbia Law School; and
  • Peggy Shepard – Executive Director and Co-Founder, WE ACT for Environmental Justice

The second panel, “Wade in the Water: From Flint to NYCHA,” focused on the water crisis occurring in communities of color across the United States, including a discussion around the lead-filled water in the City of Flint and how the Dakota Pipeline may affect clean water access for American Indians. This panel was moderated by Professor Olatunde Johnson, the Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law and the Vice Dean for Intellectual Life at Columbia Law School.

The panelists were:

  • Cecil D. Corbin-Mark – Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives, WE ACT for Environmental Justice;
  • Christine Ernst – Associate Attorney, Earthjustice;
  • Susan Kraham – Senior Staff Attorney and Lecturer-in-Law, Columbia Law School; and
  • Steven McSloy – Partner, Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP; Lecturer-in-Law, Columbia Law School

CJRL and CJEL hosted this symposium with the hope that it would spark discourse on a range of issues related to water accessibility and the disproportionate siting of environmental hazards in communities of color across the nation.

“A Living, Working Faith”: Remembering Our Colleague, Derrick A. Bell, Jr.

The Conference

December 10, 2011

As a tribute to the late Derrick Bell’s scholarship and teaching, on December 10, 2011, Columbia Law School hosted “A Living, Working Faith: Remembering Our Colleague Derrick A. Bell, Jr.,” which gathered NYC-area law professors to reflect on Bell’s legacy and the greatest lessons, challenges, and critiques of his scholarship.  The conference was developed by Penelope Andrews, Professor of Law at the City University of New York School of Law (currently Dean of Albany Law School) and Kendall Thomas, the Nash Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.

The Columbia Journal of Race and Law is pleased to continue the conversation that the law professors began on December 10 with a wider audience through this special on-line feature named after the conference.  To help spark the dialogue, professors who presented at the conference developed essays reflecting their comments on three central themes: the Permanence of Racism, Bell’s unique teaching pedagogy and his Interest Convergence Theory.  The journal partnered with Guest Editors and former Derrick Bell Teaching Fellows, Taja-Nia Henderson (Rutgers School of Law – Newark) and Joy Radice (University of Tennessee School of Law) to prepare these essays for publication.  We hope you will help us continue this important dialogue about Professor Bell’s great legacy by clicking on an essay below and sharing your thoughts with us.

About Professor Derrick Bell

Derrick Bell is widely recognized as one of the founders of critical race theory and a leading scholar on issues of race and law in America.  Professor Bell’s noteworthy career included many achievements and exceptional “firsts,” including his tenure at the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, his desegregation litigation work with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, his appointment as the first African-American tenured professor at Harvard Law School, and his service as Dean of the University of Oregon School of Law.  Derrick’s protest ethic led him to resign from the DOJ, Harvard, and Oregon, all for reasons related to the persistent subordination of people of color in the law and legal academy.  At the time of his passing, Derrick was a Visiting Professor at New York University (NYU) School of Law, where he had taught and served pursuant to a series of nineteen (19) one-year contracts with the school.

Professor Bell’s career embodied a commitment to courage and risk-taking in support of equality.  Throughout his career as a teacher, he led the call for reform in legal education; believing that he needed to model the reform he advocated, Derrick began retooling his courses in the 1980s with a focus on building practical lawyering skills, crafting legal arguments and analysis through both legal and non-legal forms of writing and expression, and creating community to further personal transformation and critical engagement.  Perhaps the best embodiment of his commitment to a participatory pedagogy was the publication in 1997 of Constitutional Conflicts, a textbook and collaborative teaching guide for American constitutional law.

Professor Bell’s unparalleled scholarly contributions include And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice (1987), Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (1992), and Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform (2004), along with numerous articles published in the nation’s leading law journals.  His textbook, Race, Racism, and American Law is now in its sixth edition (2008), and remains the teaching tool of choice for courses on race and law in American law schools.

Professor Bell passed away on October 5, 2011, surrounded by his loving and devoted family.  His life as a father, husband, lawyer, law teacher, scholar, activist, mentor, and friend inspired tributes and remembrances from people both within and outside of the legal community.


Presenter Essays

We have provided an abstract and biography for each of the presenters to provide some context for the remarks. To join the conversation, please follow the instructions here. Note: Comments are now closed.

The Elusive Quest for Equality and the Permanence of Racism

The Post Racial Era: Race, Silence, the Denial of Race/Racism and Optimism,” –Leonard Baynes, St. John’s University School of Law

Notes Toward a Critical Contemplation of the Law,” –Sonia Katyal, Fordham University School of Law

Derrick Bell’s ‘Afrolantica’ and Gentrification in Harlem, –Twila Perry, Rutgers University School of Law

Derrick Bell as Teacher

How Derrick Bell Helped Me Decide to Become an Educator, Not Just a Faculty Member, –Vanessa Merton, Pace University School of Law

Derrick Bell’s Community-Based Classroom,” –Joy Radice, University of Tennessee College of Law

‘A Living Working Faith’: Remembering Our Colleague Derrick A. Bell, Jr. as Teacher,” –Andrea McArdle, CUNY School of Law

A Legacy of Teaching,” –Robin Lenhardt, Fordham University School of Law

Derrick Bell’s Children,” –I. Bennett Capers, Brooklyn Law School

Interest Convergence

From Interest Convergence to Solidarity,” –Julie Suk, Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University

A Multiplicity of Interests,” –Rachel Godsil, Seton Hall University School of Law

Racial Fortuity, Rights Sacrifice, and the Promise of Convergence in Prison and Policing Policy,” –Taja-Nia Henderson, Rutgers School of Law – Newark