Since 2006, Professor Elaine Chiu has chaired the planning committee of the annual Northeast People of Color (NEPOC) Conference, the eastern affiliate of the National People of Color Conference (NPOC). For the past year, Professor Chiu has been working with the host school, the University of Puerto Rico School of Law (UPR School of Law) and the Society of American Law Teachers to plan this year’s conference which took place this past weekend in San Juan, Puerto Rico and attracts national scholars each year. NEPOC originated in 1996 under the leadership of Professor Leonard Baynes, Director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development (The RHB Center). The RHB Center has continued its steadfast support for this annual gathering of legal academics of color by providing an online home for the conference.
Professors Elaine Chiu and Leonard Baynes and Associate Dean Janai Nelson participated in this year’s NEPOC conference, along with faculty and deans from regions all over the United States and its territories, to discuss the legal regulation of human vice and to learn about the culture, people and current state of affairs in Puerto Rico, the U.S.’s largest territory. The collaboration and exchange between almost eighty scholars, activist lawyers, and legal educators from Puerto Rico and the continental US were productive and inspiring for all. In addition to chairing the conference, Professor Chiu participated in a workshop on advising lawyers of color interested in becoming legal academics, presented a work in progress on the movement to regulate newborn male circumcision, and introduced the keynote speaker, Ediberto Roman, and the closing speaker, Judge Jenny Rivera of the New York State Court of Appeals. Professor Baynes was a panelist on a panel discussing race, ethnicity and profiling in the Trayvon Martin case and in the New York City stop and frisk policy. He also led a discussion on the latest trends in legal education and described the success of The RHB Center’s Law School Prep Program. Associate Dean Janai Nelson moderated a roundtable on the efficacy of human trafficking laws and regulations.
On Friday, NEPOC conferred the Haywood Burns-Shanara Gilbert awards to Professors Efren Rivera Ramos (UPR School of Law), Ediberto Roman (Florida International University College of Law), and Catherine Smith (University of Denver Sturm College of
Law). The award ceremony was especially poignant because of the passing of Nelson Mandela, which shaped the spirit of the entire conference, and the moving tribute to Nelson Mandela offered by Professor Rivera Ramos. In addition, Professors Haywood Burns and Shanara Gilbert, the namesakes of NEPOC’s annual awards, lost their lives in a car accident in South Africa while working on the South African Constitution at the request of Nelson Mandela.
Another conference highlight took place on Saturday when NEPOC, along with SALT and UPR School of Law, partnered to take advantage of the conference’s locale to address the low numbers of Puerto Ricans in the legal profession and in the legal academy. They conducted day-long pipeline programs for high school students from all over the island of Puerto Rico and for prelaw advisors, admissions directors and interested faculty. NEPOC hopes to continue its pipeline work at future conferences.