The UNC Centre for Civil Rights is an organisation that provides legal assistance to marginalised communities by means of impact litigation. Every year it allows law students to carry out internships during the summer and this year I was privileged to obtain the opportunity to carry out my internship here.
The Centre focuses on a variety of civil rights issues, including: public education; community engagement; housing and environmental justice. It seeks to eliminate discrimination embedded in policies that are targeted at minority communities and to ensure justice for these communities that are so detrimentally impacted.
This internship has provided me with a rare opportunity to be directly involved in and experience the legal processes of a foreign country. The Centre has a very inclusive approach towards its interns and the tasks we are charged with vary depending on the particular project, but typically include: meeting with members of various community groups; assessing client intakes; drafting legal documents; and carrying out research on active and potential court cases. Due to the confidentiality clause we concluded in order to protect the plaintiffs the Center represents, the extent to which I can talk about the work I have done is limited, but I have largely focused on policies and practices that result in schools becoming more segregated, as well as environmental pollution. I have been fortunate enough to travel to different areas in the State to meet with and interview various people. Thus far, I have had many interesting experiences; including attending a rally in my first week of work which was organised to protest against environmental pollution caused by hog farms, where many influential people spoke, including Robert Kennedy, Jr.
The environment at the Centre is one that allows for growth in all respects. I am fortunate enough to work under the supervision of attorneys who have truly dedicated their careers to changing the lives of people that are marginalised and to whom discrimination is a daily reality. The other interns at the Centre are vibrant students who are similarly dedicated to the cause of civil rights. Each week we have the privilege of listening to seasoned civil rights lawyers that speak about their careers, how they have faced and overcome trials and tribulations. Working at the Centre has had a significant impact on me on a personal level. At a time when I found a growing sense of disillusionment, I have been reminded that there are great people that have overcome the seemingly impossible through perseverance and remaining committed to their belief in justice, equality and freedom, no matter how great the challenge. Working at the Centre has reinvigorated me and re-emphasised the important role that law plays in enforcing these rights and contributing to peace by including the marginalised and allowing the voiceless to be heard.