Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Message From the Dean on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Dear NYLS Community,

We hope you are well. Today we honor the memory of our most iconic civil rights leader, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who possessed boundless courage and an enduring passion to better our country on behalf of people of color, and all oppressed peoples. 

One of the many individuals Dr. King inspired was the late Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta, Georgia. Congressman Lewis’s life demonstrated how peaceful protests that begin on the streets can carry into the halls of government and drive lasting change. He died this past July at the same time as the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests occurred. 

Shortly before his death, and just after his visit to Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, Congressman Lewis wrote “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation.” His final essay, it was published posthumously on the day of his funeral. In it, he calls on young people to take action to uphold justice, equality, and our democracy in the name of Dr. King:

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up, and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

We all have a duty to combat injustice. This is an even more urgent task for those of us in the legal profession—indeed, it is the essence of our job. We have the knowledge and the tools to carry on the legacy of Dr. King, Congressman Lewis, and countless others who have lit the path for us to follow. 

As our nation begins a new chapter this week, we have a renewed opportunity to uphold democracy, inspired by the life of Dr. King. The future of our country and the rights of everyone in it depend upon our willingness to do this work. We are proud to be your teachers, colleagues, and friends, and to stand with you as we move ahead in service of a more just world. Please know we are here for you, and don’t hesitate to contact us for support, information, or inspiration from the Racial Justice Project, or the Office, and Faculty Committee, for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Dean Anthony W. Crowell

Academic Dean William LaPiana

Professor Penelope Andrews
Co-Director, Racial Justice Project

Professor Alvin Bragg
Co-Director, Racial Justice Project

Professor Kirk Burkhalter
Co-Chair, Faculty Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Associate Dean Ella Mae Estrada
Office of Admissions, Financial Aid, and Diversity Initiatives
Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Professor Ann Thomas
Co-Chair, Faculty Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion