Statement of Values
ChangeLawyers is committed to ending racism and all forms of racial inequities. As an organization founded by lawyers to serve all Californians, we have called attention to the lack of meaningful representation of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) in law for decades. Our experience inspires us to believe that within one generation we, as a community of civic-minded and activist lawyers, can create a justice system as diverse as California and dismantle persistent systemic barriers to racial equity.
Today, California continues to grapple with the vestiges of slavery, xenophobia, and other modern-day manifestations of racism. The wealth gap is racialized and growing; access to equal justice under the law is too often uneven based on race and economic status; violence and discrimination are regularly inflicted on BIPOC, immigrant, women, religious groups, and LGBTQ+ Californians; implicit racial bias is the norm, not the exception; BIPOC Californians are underrepresented in the legal profession, and the pace of change is too slow (34% of attorneys are BIPOC compared to being 61% of California’s population).
We recognize that these realities have bred a crisis of confidence, particularly for Californians of color, that the justice system will treat everyone fairly. We need point no further than to the 2020 murder of George Floyd, which catalyzed a racial reckoning throughout the country. The voices of millions of Americans protesting his death sounded a bell that cannot be unrung. The truth is that American history is rife with examples of the inhumane treatment of Black Americans as well as other marginalized communities. Yet, the truth is also that social movements from the civil rights movement to Me Too to Black Lives Matter provide hope that the arc of history bends towards justice. This hope must never be extinguished.
In light of these truths, we continue to sharpen our organizational strategy to dismantle the entrenched forces of systemic racism. One major step we have taken is shifting our philanthropic model from one of charity to one of justice. “Justice not charity” means framing our grants and scholarships as fuel for the social justice movement. It means treating our grantees and scholars as leaders and experts based on their direct lived experiences. It also means we take a seat on the frontlines and use our own organizational resources to fight for change, such as policy advocacy, amicus briefs, and strategic communications. This is only the beginning. We know we won’t get it right every time, and so we strive to remain accountable to the communities we serve.
We Pledge To
- Listen to and trust our grantee partners, scholars, community members, and organizational partners.
- Provide the next generation of California’s legal changemakers financial support, leadership development trainings, and access to influential legal networks.
- Tell the stories of legal changemakers who are fighting for our shared humanity by making our laws and policies more fair and just.
- Work closely with other nonprofit organizations, law firms, corporations, government partners, and philanthropic institutions to achieve broader impact than us working alone and to break out of silos that exist in the social change movement.
- Utilize the various tools available to 501c3 organizations including policy advocacy and amicus briefs to affect systemic change in the areas of criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, racial justice, and access to justice.
- Continue the work with our board of directors to create a culture of belonging and inclusion for all board and staff members.
- Give back to the communities that we, the board and staff, come from and swing open the door of opportunity so that others may rise.