Bluhm Legal Clinic Hosts Inaugural Symposium on Race and Lawyering


Social Justice Bluhm Legal Clinic Faculty
Robin Walker Sterling, director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic

The Children and Family Justice Center co-sponsored the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s inaugural Race and Lawyering in the 21st Century symposium, which was held on September 30. The event was held online and at Lincoln Hall.

The four-hour event, whose theme was “Gun Possession in Chicago: What the Headlines Don’t Tell You,”  included three panels: “A Peek into Possession: Why People Carry Guns”, “From Bad to Worse: Chicago’s Response to Gun Possession”, and “Progress toward Peace: Sustainable Approaches to Reduce Gun Violence.”

Robin Walker Sterling, Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Clinical Education, and director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, opened the symposium. “The fact that we are gathered together serves as a source of hopefulness that the complicated issues around gun possession, race, and the response of the criminal legal system are not intractable,” she said.

Speakers included Jasmin Aramburu, research associate for the Children and Family Justice Center; Stephanie Kollmann, policy director for the Children and Family Justice Center; and Sheila Bedi, clinical professor of law and director of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic. “State violence characterizes the interaction many of our community members have with CPD,” Bedi said during the “From Bad to Worse” panel. “If the police department is the only game in town when someone is hurt, it is not surprising that people feel they need to seek out their own forms of justice.”

Organizers and public advocates from around the city were also invited to speak, including Sharone Mitchell, Jr., Cook County public defender; Tamar Manasseh, founder of MASK (Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings); Kofi Ademola, organizer for Black Lives Matter Chicago; and many more. “Safety is the number one concern for young people carrying guns,” Ademola said during the “A Peek into Possession” panel. “If punitive measures are the only way we deal with this, we see the results. We don’t see a reduction in violence.”

Julie Biehl, assistant dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic and director of the Children and Family Justice Center, closed the event. “This was an incredibly rich and thought-provoking ;conversation about this very urgent and critically important topic that is vexing our home city and our state right now,” she said. “Now is the time for us to all to stand up and say, ‘enough is enough.’”

To support the call for peace, speakers at the event urged attendees to visit Illinois Blueprint for Peace and sign the GoodKids MadCity petition.