Coalition Lawyering

When I stood among my fellow students and watched Hurricane Katrina roll in, and then watched the levees break, I mourned the possibility that there would be no city left to return to and so I joined thousands of others volunteering with Student Hurricane Network (SHN). I worked as their Committee Chair of the National Day of Solidarity with the Gulf Coast, coordinating efforts to promote events at over 45 law schools across the country to raise awareness and recruit law students to volunteer.

I continued to fight this new battle of New Orleans through a range of committee work. I worked with the Displaced Residents Task Force to coordinate and enact logistical, legal and public relations responses to FEMA decisions detrimental to displaced residents. As part of the Katrina Recovery Group, I worked on messaging and our recovery platform for the One Nation, One Gulf, One Promise campaign. We took this campaign to the Democratic National Convention in 2008, where I spoke to Caucuses, US Representatives, Delegates, policymakers and other advocates about the need for a Gulf Coast recovery surge. This campaign resulted in the Democratic National Committee’s adoption of our recovery platform.

Serving as the chairperson of Unity of Greater New Orleans‘Advocacy Committee was part of the larger advocacy for New Orleans’ homeless community that I undertook managing The Pro Bono Project’s outreach programs. The Pro Bono Project serves New Orleans’ indigent and working poor by coordinating volunteer lawyers to provide expert legal advice. This work brought me face to face with the vast problems that people of the Gulf Coast faced from Hurricane Katrina. As a staff attorney with AIDSLaw of Louisiana, I helped found www.aidsgulf.net in response to the AIDS Gulf Coast Disaster. AIDSGulf.net students assisted in preparing policy, legal memorandum, and advocacy campaign proposals for the Louisiana AIDS Advocacy Network (LAAN). I became Board Chair of the LAAN, and since have redoubled coalition lawyering efforts by helping to build a statewide Medicaid Expansion coalition and an HIV-decriminalization committee. As LAAN Chair, I was also served as Chief Editor of the Louisiana HIV/AIDS Strategy for Advocacy, an action plan for the larger coalition of HIV advocates to move forward on a series of reports and plans from around the region and the state.