I am honored and humbled to serve as your 2020-2021 Lawyers Club President. Some people have expressed sympathy because my presidency is the year we witness the global COVID-19 pandemic, and worldwide protests for racial and criminal justice reform after the unjustifiable killing of Mr. George Floyd. During this pandemic, we have learned that the only statistic women are not leading on is the death rate. Otherwise, “across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the [negative] impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of sex”. (United Nation: Policy Brief: the Impact of COVID-19 on Women - April 9, 2020) On May 25, Mr. George Floyd died after a police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while two other police officers knelt on Floyd’s body, and a third police officer stood and watched. None of the officers provided aid to Floyd as he said, “I can’t breathe.” The killing of Floyd has prompted diverse crowds to protest for racial and criminal justice reform. Unfortunately, where we are today with race relations is not a surprise, it is just more people are “woke” than ever before.
While the pandemic and killing of Floyd have revealed the many inequities of our country, both have also served as a catalyst for inspirational growth. Technology has advanced at lightning speed, racial equity is at the forefront worldwide, and we have learned when it is all stripped away, what matters most is family, friendships, sustenance, and equity. Ah, let us not forget, and toilet paper!
I have concluded it is no coincidence that my presidency fell in 2020-2021 because my life has been “no crystal stair” and “I’se been a climbin’on.” (Langston Hughes “Mother to Son” poem) Consequently, I have no doubt that I will strive to do my best to uphold the amazing legacy of our founders and past presidents despite the challenges facing our country today. I look forward to working with our board, staff, co-chairs, and sponsors to ensure we do not miss a step to advance women in the law and society in the upcoming year.
At the end of my presidency, I hope to look back and say we reflected, reimagined, and reinvented ourselves in the areas of Service, Inclusion, and Advocacy. I am a firm believer that when we focus on Service, Inclusion, and Advocacy we bring out the best in each of us, which can only make our communities better. In a world where chaos seems to be touching our lives closer than we all anticipated in January 2020, we must remember that we, in the legal community, are in a privileged position to survive with greater ease than those who live in poverty and despair. Thus, we are in a unique position to pause and reflect on current events; reimagine how we help others; and reinvent how we fight for equality and reproductive justice.
As for Service, Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Lawyers Club is that small group of thoughtful, committed citizens. As president, I will ensure Lawyers Club is of service to our staff, board, and co-chairs to ensure all are supported and working on committees and projects that feed their passion for Lawyers Club; of service to our members by continuing to provide programming that addresses legal and emotional skills for all types of lawyers and law students; and of service to our sponsors to ensure their commitment to our mission is reflected in all that we do.
As for Inclusion: Maya Angelou said, “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” As president, I will ensure Lawyers Club continues to promote inclusion by welcoming new faces with warmth and interest in their Lawyers Club journey, meeting face to face with all diversity bars, and other legal organizations to share all Lawyers Club has to offer to help their members excel in their professional goals.
Lastly, as for Advocacy – Evita Peron said: “I demanded more rights for women because I know what women had to put up with.” As president, I will seek to preserve our advocacy voice by continuing to participate in movements that ensure women’s rights move forward towards gender, social, racial, and economic equality. We will amplify our voice by continuing to work with our elected officials to vet and/or promulgate women-centered legislation. We will continue to collaborate with other pro-choice women’s organizations to advocate for reproductive justice.
I hope you join us because it is going to be a remarkable year!
-Article first published in LC News, July/August 2020
Yahairah Aristy is a Deputy Public Defender, and is the 2020-2021 president of Lawyers Club of San Diego.