Dear NAPD Community:  

It is my great honor to write you as we commemorate the work, achievements, and history of Black people during the month of February in honor of Black History Month. Make no mistake, the challenges and obstacles that Black people face are experienced daily and their ability to overcome and persevere lasts all year long.  But this month, we dedicate additional time and space to honor all the contributions of this multifaceted and diverse group of  people.  Their unprecedented impact on the United States, world, and public defense is incomparable. 

Despite all of the contributions Black people have made and the progress that we’ve collectively made as a country, more work needs to be done.  Our work thrusts us into acknowledging that Black people are still commonly disenfranchised, over-policed, disproportionately incarcerated, most harshly sentenced, and racially profiled every single day.  We have no choice but to attest to what we witness every workday.  But these experiences are not limited just to our Black clients as they face insurmountable odds in the criminal legal system.  These are also the experiences of our Black colleagues as they shoulder the burden of seeing people that look like them experience great racial injustice, while also fighting to be heard and respected in public defense offices around the nation.  

Meanwhile, the nation that was once turned on its axis by the murder of George Floyd has now turned again.  Turned against equality, fairness, access, and accountability.  Turned back to racism, restrictions, bans, and hate.  It continues to limit the education of our children on American history, which is richly composed of Black history.  Laws continue to limit accessibility to resources and programming focused on diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging to support and incorporate the Black experience.  Affirmative action is under attack adding more obstacles to Black achievement.   Black leaders continue to be second-guessed and undermined despite having to work twice as hard to make it.   Racial injustice continues to be an undercurrent in the courtrooms we work.   Stories of Black disparate treatment whispered behind our office doors. 

Black History is happening right now.  It’s being made right now.  We must be the change we want to see. We must use our voices, not under the cloak of white saviorism and professional superiority, but as the mouthpiece of advocacy to fight for true justice.  We must use our resources and expertise to speak truth to power about the racial avalanche that Black clients face before they even hit the courtroom doors.  We must unapologetically protect and support Black people as they activate courage and tenacity in systems that were never made to support them.  We must do the internal work to live out the true meaning of anti-racism and then live that work out loud, not performatively.  We must consistently check ourselves and respect the Black experience whether it’s in our offices, jail cells, or the courtroom.  We must transform the way we advocate and reclaim justice to truly live out the dream and work of all of the Black people who sacrificed before us.  We must not relent until there is true fairness and justice for all. 

Happy Black History to each and every one of you!  Join us every month for the racial justice meetup to learn how you can do the work and affect change. 

Brittany Gail Thomas (BGT), Esq.,

NAPD DEIJ Coordinator 

Black History Month at NAPD: