social justice

Helping More Families Through Pro Bono

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When a young child faced the possibility of losing the only real home he'd ever known, our pro bono volunteer Yilan Bryant, from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP stepped in with help and expertise from Law Foundation attorneys.

Daniel* lived a happy and secure life with his grandmother, Charlotte*, who began taking care of him when his biological parents became absent while he was an infant. However, Daniel's safe and peaceful life was jeopardized when his biological parents, whose lives were still not very stable, threatened to take Daniel away from his home. Fearing losing her grandson to an unstable living situation and overwhelmed with the complicated legal process of guardianship, Charlotte turned to the Law Foundation.

Thanks to our team and pro bono attorney, Yilan, Daniel's grandmother was able to navigate a complicated legal system to ensure that Daniel's best interests were protected.
"It was immensely gratifying to help my client navigate the legal process and paperwork and ultimately get to a result that was in the best interest of the child. My client was able to secure guardianship of her grandson, receiving both temporary and general guardianship for the child. To help my client receive legal assurance that her grandchild will grow up in the security and comfort of her care gave me a great deal of satisfaction, both personally and professionally.  I look forward to handling additional family law matters." says Yilan, who succeeded in safeguarding Daniel's stable home life with his grandmother. 

We're grateful for our pro bono volunteers who allow us to serve even more families and individuals each year.

*Name changed to protect identity.

In Case You Missed It

It's here! Law Foundation Supervising Attorney, Nadia Aziz, and Buena Vista Resident Association member, Maria Martinez, spoke to Silicon Valley Community Foundation Program Officer Vu-Bang Nguyen a few months ago about what it was like to save a small, low-income community in Palo Alto and what other communities can learn from the experience.

Click here to listen to SVCF Philanthropy Now's episode on Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. 

School Walkouts & Student Rights

Protests in schools are taking place across the country as students participate in national gun-violence walkouts.  Many districts and schools are tolerating, if not encouraging, student participation in the walkouts to draw attention to gun violence prevention. It's important that youth know their rights to freedom of speech or expression, especially when at school.

For more information on student rights, click here.

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Your 2017 Year-End Recommendations

Stay informed about the social issues that shape our community! Read, watch, listen!  

Here are a few podcasts, books, articles, and documentaries recommended by Law Foundation staff, board, and volunteers. These recommendations give more background into the issues many of our clients face and highlight why our work is critical in creating a stronger, more inclusive Silicon Valley.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

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Why it Matters: An eviction can be the beginning of a downward spiral into deep poverty for many families across our country, particularly for low-income families of color. Matthew Desmond's Evicted captures the stories of tenants and landlords and breaks downs the impact housing policy has had on the changing landscape of American cities.

Recommended by Law Foundation Board & Staff
Last month, a few of our staff members along with members from our Board had the pleasure of seeing Matthew Desmond speak about his book and his cross-country research at Stanford. We were not only moved by the stories he shared but even more motivated to continue to strengthen our housing work and further protections for renters in our region to ensure that more families are protected against unlawful evictions. 

Read the New York Times Review

Equality vs Equity - Illustrated by Angus Maquire

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Why It Matters: Equality and equity are often used interchangeably when talking about fairness, but there's a significant difference between the two. If we want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be part of the Silicon Valley success story, we need to first understand that not everyone starts off on an even playing field. 

Recommended by Anuja Kumaria, Law Foundation Senior Attorney  
"With the Law Foundation committed to ensuring race equity in our work, it's important for me to visually understand what that means and why it is different than equality. This image was the turning point for me to realize why we must strive for equity and how the direct services work we do should also be guided by these principles. While we work to break down the systemic barriers, like the fence, we must direct more resources and attention to those who are most deeply affected by factors outside their control." 

Download the image here from the Interaction Institute for Social Change (.zip package containing JPGs, PDF, PNG, and AI)

Season One of The Uncertain Hour

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Why It Matters: Some people know it as welfare or TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but what is it exactly and who does it help? Season One of The Uncertain Hour podcast takes a deep dive into the evolving sentiments and policies that have shaped welfare or cash assistance to poor families in the U.S. while busting longstanding myths and uncovering surprising backstories. 
 

Recommended by Becky Moskowitz, Law Foundation Senior Attorney
"As a long-time benefits advocate, I learned many things I did not know about what shaped policy decisions that impact the lives of many families with children."

Listen to Season One of The Uncertain Hour Here

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

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Why it Matters: "The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice." Author Bryan Stevenson has come to this conclusion after experiencing racial inequities as a young black man in the deep South and working as a leading human rights lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. His beautifully written memoir, Just Mercy, courageously confronts the ugly truths of our country's history and challenges all of us to do the same to truly change the course of our nation's justice system.


Recommended by Law Foundation Board Member, Alexis Coll-Very---Partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
"Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy persuasively demonstrates how race and wealth have distorted what justice looks like in America. The book has provided both inspiration and greater context for the work I do as a Law Foundation board member and pro bono volunteer. Few books have influenced my perspective on American society as much as Stevenson's. This is truly a must read." 

 Read the New York Times Review

More Perfect - A Radiolab Podcast

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Why It Matters:  Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, Roe v. Wade-we all know the major Supreme Court decisions that have changed the fabric of our society but there are many lesser-known cases that have made just as much of an impact on our civil liberties and daily lives. More Perfect from Radiolab is a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most important Supreme Court cases, spanning from the beginnings of the Court to now. The actual arguments at the Court are only one small part of the podcast, which sets forth the backstory, interviewing people involved or their descendants, and exploring how these monumental cases have shaped life in America.  

Recommended by Law Foundation Board Member, Rick Frenkel---Partner, Latham & Watkins, LLP
"The Supreme Court has the power to change American life as we know it with a single case. And these decisions have long-lasting impact. More Perfect from Radiolab brings a complete picture to these decisions, especially the human and cultural impacts they have in the communities we live in today. I have found this podcast to be a conversation starter, especially as it relates to some of the social justice and systemic change work that the Law Foundation is focused on."

Listen to More Perfect Here

Spent: Looking For Change - A Documentary

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Why It Matters: Many middle and low-income Americans have few options when faced with a major necessary expense. According to a 2017 GOBankingRates survey, more than half of Americans (57 percent) have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. Spent: Looking for Change is a documentary that sheds light on the predatory lending industry and reveals how an unanticipated expense like a medical emergency, lay-off from work, or a breakdown in transportation can create a life-altering payday loan debt trap that can devastate whole communities.     

The Law Foundation has been a part of the Coalition Against Payday Predators (CAPP) since 2009, a collaboration of community-based organizations working to limit the predatory financial practices of payday lenders in Santa Clara County. Thanks to our efforts, in 2012 the city of San José passed the strongest anti-payday lending zoning ordinance of any large city in the country. Soon after, the cities of Sunnyvale, Gilroy, and Morgan Hill passed similar anti-payday lending ordinances alongside Los Altos and Santa Clara County. 

Recommended by Nuemi Guzman, Law Foundation Advocate  
"Spent shows how in a time where money is short and options are limited, it's easy to fall into the trap of payday and title loans. As an advocate against predatory lending, Spent has helped me understand the financial constraints that many people in our community face and what we can all do to help end the debt trap." 

Watch The Full Documentary Here

Selection of Children's Books

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Why It Matters: To create a stronger, more inclusive future for all of us, we must invest our time and energy in the children and youth of our communities, especially to combat hate and intolerance. Prejudice and biases are often embedded from a young age, but we can counter harmful frames of mind about people who are different from us through education. Stories written specifically for a younger age group will help to build up the next generation of compassionate adults and social activists. 

The books range in topics from race to bullying and gay parenting to poverty. They all provide lessons on the importance of diversity, kindness, and perseverance.

  • We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song ---   Debbie Levy
  • Red: A Crayon's Story ---  Michael Hall
  • And Tango Makes Three ---  Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
  • I am Rosa Parks and I am Martin Luther King Jr.---   Brad Melzer 
  • The Other Side ---  Jacqueline Woodsen
  • The Last Stop on Market Street ---   Matt De la Pena
  • The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade ---  Justin Roberts

Recommended by Law Foundation Senior Attorney, Molly Brennan

"I chose these books because, as a mom to 3 young kids, one of the most important things I can teach them is to see the beauty in their differences. And, just as important, to see the beauty in everyone else's differences, whether it is skin color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. It is never too early to talk about the things that make us different, particularly skin color, since it is often the first thing kids notice. Our children aren't colorblind or able-body blind, and my hope is that by using these books to introduce our children to these topics, we might be able to prevent so many of the implicit biases we all have from our life's experiences from being passed on to our children." 

Restorative Justice in Oakland - A Mini-Doc

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Why It Matters: When all students, regardless of their circumstances, have access to an adequate education and an equal opportunity to succeed, our entire society prospers. However, the quality of education that a child receives is often out of their control-unless parents and guardians know their rights. Law Foundation attorneys help parents navigate the education system and understand their options under the law when their student is not receiving an appropriate education while also advocating for restorative justice practices that allow children the opportunity to be held accountable for their actions without harming their future potential for success.

The Restorative Justice in Oakland mini documentary offers an inside-look into the education system in the Bay Area and demonstrates how restorative justice can transform the way we think about school discipline. Though the video is a few years old, the message is still timely to the work we do today in Silicon Valley.  

Recommended by Law Foundation Senior Attorney Julia Souza
"This short video is a great description of the positive impacts restorative justice can have on youth, especially low income youth of color. A comprehensive restorative justice program can reduce teacher turnover, improve test scores, and drastically reduce suspensions and expulsions. Because low income youth of color are suspended and expelled at much higher rates than their white peers, restorative justice is key to reducing education inequality. That's why Law Foundation attorneys who defend students in school discipline hearings advocate for restorative justice practices at every opportunity."

Watch Restorative Justice in Oakland Here

Rookie Podcast - The Roadmap for Liberation with Janet Mock

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Why It Matters: Representation, in its most basic form, is having the stories we live presented in the world around us. For far too long, representation in media, pop culture, politics, and just about any other industry has lacked diversity and inclusion. Women, people of color, gender non-confirming individuals, and LGBTQ community members don't often see their stories and life experiences told. When we don't know or understand people who are different than us, we are also blind to the injustices they face. As part of our inclusion work, our Medical Legal Partnership team helps transgendered clients change their legal documents to match their identity, a small but important and life-changing service.

The Rookie Podcast is a spinoff of Rookie Magazine, a publication created by and made for teenagers. The Roadmap for Liberation episode begins with a short lesson in active listening, a critical skill in today's divisive political climate, which sets the foundation for Janet Mock's enlightening interview that dives into her life as a transgendered woman, activist, and cultural icon. 

Recommended by Law Foundation Development Coordinator, Monica Rodriguez
"As a child, I was acutely aware of not seeing anyone that looked like me on TV. I internalized the lack of representation as a shortcoming on my end---I wanted to be different. There are transgendered and non-confirming children and teens who might be feeling the same sense of loneliness that I once felt and who may not know an adult that has gone through a similar experience or have someone to look up to. This episode is a thoughtful piece on acceptance and courage; I hope it gives someone struggling with issues of identity a stronger sense of belonging." 

Listen to Rookie Here

You're Invited: Celebration of Justice

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The Law Foundation's 2018 Celebration of Justice  will take place on Thursday, May 24, at the Santa Clara Convention Center and we'd love for you to join us!

Click here to get your ticket today and join us in creating a stronger, more inclusive Silicon Valley! 

Our Celebration of Justice event helps us raise crucial funds for life-changing legal services in Silicon Valley and attracts nearly 800 influential lawyers and business leaders from world-renowned firms and companies, as well as prominent judges and elected officials.

It's the legal event of the year that you won't want to miss!

For information or partnership inquires, contact Carrie Chung at 408.280.2472 or carriec@lawfoundation.org

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Quick Ways You Can Advance Justice

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A Gift for You
As the holiday season quickly approaches, we want to make sure that you stay informed about the social issues affecting our community with a few special recommendations ranging from books, podcasts, articles, and even documentaries from some of our closest supporters! Keep an eye out for our emails coming in December, each with a new recommendation to share with your friends, colleagues, and family. 

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After Thanksgiving, Join Us for Giving Tuesday on November 28
After Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to giving back to your local community. Mark your calendar for November 28 and join us on this national day of giving to help provide crucial, life-changing legal services in Silicon Valley.

With you on our side, we've fought against housing discrimination, secured safe and stable homes for foster children and youth facing abuse and neglect, and we've advocated for patients' rights and affordable healthcare. Help us continue this life-changing work; give for justice this #GivingTuesday and make a donation to the Law Foundation on November 28th. Be sure to invite your friends and colleagues to join you and match your gift to make an even bigger impact in your community!

If you just can't wait for the big day, visit our donation page today to get a head-start on the giving season. 

Advocating for Stronger Rent Protections

Photo by Ramona Giwargis, Bay Area News Group

Photo by Ramona Giwargis, Bay Area News Group

Earlier this week, the San Jose City Council voted on whether or not to tie rent increases for rent-controlled units to the cost of living, capped at 5%. The Law Foundation, along with partners at the Silicon Valley Renters' Rights Coalition, packed into City Hall to defend past rent and tenant protection victories and urged City Council to vote "yes" on the measure to help stabilize rents for families in San Jose. 

The vote was close, but unfortunately, the City Council did not move forward with a measure to tie rent increases for rent-controlled apartments to the cost of living. However, tenants and community members successfully organized against landlords' attempts to water down San Jose's Apartment Rent Ordinance and Tenant Protection Ordinance, crucial housing protections for over 400,000 tenants in San Jose.

Many thanks to Council Members Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, Don Rocha, Magdalena Carrasco, Tam Nguyen, and Sylvia Arenas for their support. The fight to preserve renter protections in San Jose continues next Spring 2018, when the Apartment Rent Ordinance returns to Council. See you there!  

Learn more about San Jose City Council's vote from The Mercury News.
 

A Hard-Fought Five Years Brings a Huge Victory

For five years, more than 400 residents of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Palo Alto’s last mobile home park, fought to preserve their homes after the park owners announced their intention to sell the property to a developer. 

Earlier this month, a deal was reached that will preserve the park as affordable housing.

Buena Vista families will continue to enjoy their diverse and tight-knit community and benefit from living in a high opportunity area of Silicon Valley, one that has high-quality Palo Alto schools, safe neighborhoods, jobs, and healthcare. 

We thank the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County and its Executive Director Katherine Harasz, who, together with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, worked to ensure that Buena Vista will be preserved--and renovated-- and operated on a day-to-day basis by The Caritas Corporation, a nonprofit with a mission of maintaining quality affordable housing.

We worked in partnership with our tireless and courageous clients, the Buena Vista residents' association, and many other community advocates and supporters, including:  the Friends of Buena Vista, a dedicated group of Palo Altans, led by Winter Dellenbach; the Palo Alto School Board; the Palo Alto and regional PTAs, led by Susan Eldredge and Nancy Krop; the Community Working Group; Stanford professors and students, led by Education Professor Amado Padilla; Larry Klein; and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and his staff members Micaela Hellman-Tincher and Kristina Loquist. 

Photo by Eric Kuhri, Bay Area News Group

Photo by Eric Kuhri, Bay Area News Group

The Law Foundation's Buena Vista preservation team included senior attorneys Nadia Aziz and Diana Castillo, senior outreach coordinators Teresa Magana and Nuemi Guzman, supervising attorney Melissa Morris, former supervising attorney James Zahradka, and directing attorney Kyra Kazantzis.  The team was supported by expert co-counsel Madeline Howard, Navneet Grewal, Sue Himmelreich, and Dick Rothschild at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. The law firm of Sidley Austin LLP provided generous pro bono staffing and financial resources for the litigation effort; Matt Dolan and Norm Blears were the key, hard-working members of the Sidley team.