CCR created the Ella Baker Summer Internship Program in 1987 to honor the legacy of Ella Baker, a hero of the civil rights movement, and to train the next generation of social justice lawyers. Our program uses a combination of theory and practice to train talented and committed law students on how to work alongside social movements, community organizations, and impacted individuals. Through our program, interns gain practical litigation experience and sharpen their theoretical understanding of the relationship between social change, organizing and lawyering.
The Ella Baker Program is sponsored by the Bertha Foundation which hosts law students and emerging lawyers at legal organizations across the world. As a result, Ella Baker Interns are connected to a global community of social justice law students and lawyers through the Bertha Legal Network.
Intern Roles & Responsibilities
Interns work under the direct supervision of attorneys and are given high-quality assignments and periodic feedback. Interns also participate in weekly educational seminars. Topics range from litigation skills, theories of social change, and guest lectures by noted local organizers & activists. Interns’ responsibilities may include: legal research & writing for domestic and international litigation, factual investigation, client & witness interviews, policy/legislative research, and participation in client and community meetings. In addition, students are provided opportunities to attend court proceedings, community and client meetings, view films about social justice issues, and attend other law related panels and events.
Students in the Ella Baker program are hosted at four sites. Each site offers students the opportunity to work at a legal organization where collaboration with social movements and community organizations is emphasized. CCR has stitched these sites together in a single program to expose students to the unique opportunities and challenges of social justice lawyering in different cities, institutions with unique and varying political histories and contexts. In 2014, students will be placed at one of the following sites:
New York City, NY
Ella Baker interns work at the Center for Constitutional Rights and are supervised by CCR’s attorneys. Students gain experience working on cases in CCR’s three docket areas: Government Misconduct/Racial Justice, Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative and International Human Rights. Students conduct legal research and writing, factual investigation, background research and legislative/policy advocacy. In the past, students have worked on cases involving solitary confinement, discriminatory policing practices, social and economic rights, immigrants’ rights, U.S. detention and targeted killing practices, universal jurisdiction over international human rights abuses, gender and LGBTI justice domestically and internationally. Students also have the opportunity to work with CCR’s Education and Outreach Department on various advocacy campaigns. Students at this site experience the unique opportunities and challenges of doing social justice lawyering at a national organization.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Ella Baker interns work at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. The Center is a multi-racial organization dedicated to building the power and participation of poor people in order to expand democracy and transform the economy. We organize directly affected people, and couple their courage with strategic legal, policy, and communications work to build campaigns that advance racial justice, immigrant rights, and a fair economy. The Center anchors three grassroots membership organizations: the Congress of Day Laborers, Stand With Dignity, and the National Guestworker Alliance, as well as a strategic legal department that innovates law and policy strategies that build grassroots power. Our members are African American and immigrant workers and families in the South, as well as guestworkers across the country. In the last five years, the Center’s organizing and policy victories have been highlighted in the New York Times, Time Magazine, and Newsweek. Recent news articles highlighting our work include: “C.J.’s Seafood Fined for Labor Abuses," NY Times, 24 July 2012. “Immigrant laborers in New Orleans testing Obama Administration's new policy," Times-Picayune, 24 June 2012. “B.W. Cooper housing site's slow march to rebirth reaches finish line," Times-Picayune, 5 May 2012. The Center's legal department provides legal representation and strategic support to our grassroots organizing projects and our members. Practice areas include workers’ rights, housing, civil rights, and immigration. Our current work includes federal impact litigation, law reform cases, strategic immigration and detention work, administrative advocacy, policy analysis and advocacy reports, and campaign research and support.
Ella Baker interns work at the Community Justice Project (CJP) of Florida Legal Services and are supervised by CJP attorneys. CJP believes lawyers create social change by building the power of community and worker organizations directed by those most affected by social injustice. Interns in Miami will work on CJP’s varied caseload, including county, state and federal litigation, class actions, direct representation, community outreach/education, legislative advocacy, and lobbying on behalf of associations of workers/tenants. Students’ work will relate to local campaigns led by client organizations including those to: combat police brutality and racial profiling; dismantle the school to prison pipeline; preserve low-income mobile home parks; confront “slumlords” in low-income housing; and improve working conditions for taxi-drivers. Among the organizations we represent are the Dream Defenders, Miami Workers Center, Power U Center for Social Change, New Vision Taxi Drivers Association, and the Right to the City Alliance. Students at this site experience the unique opportunities and challenges of utilizing a community lawyering approach at a legal services organization in one of the most economically unequal cities in the U.S.
Ella Baker interns in Boston work with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and are supervised by IJDH attorneys. IJDH and its Haiti-based affiliate, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), have over 17 years of demonstrated success enforcing Haitians’ human rights, in Haiti and abroad. IJDH works in four areas: 1) impact litigation that opens the doors of Haitian, international and U.S. courts to precedent-setting human rights cases; 2) documentation that provides public officials, human rights advocates and grassroots activists the reliable information they need to speak up for human rights in Haiti; 3) transnational grassroots advocacy that compels governments and powerful institutions in Haiti and abroad to respect Haitians’ human rights; and 4) systemic capacity building that develops a corps of Haitian human rights lawyers and advocates trained to fight for sustainable change in their country. Interns will likely work primarily on ground-breaking litigation and advocacy seeking accountability from the United Nations (UN) for introducing cholera to Haiti. This work is done in collaboration with the BAI, and interns may have an opportunity to travel to Haiti for 1-2 weeks to work directly with the attorneys and apprentices at BAI. Due to the dynamic and fast-paced nature of legal work in Haiti, interns must demonstrate language proficiency in French or Kreyol; however, students with proficiency in both languages are preferred.
The internship will begin on June 8, 2015 and end on August 14, 2015. Interns are expected to work 40 hours per week for a minimum of ten weeks. All students will be asked to attend an Orientation and a Final Debrief. The location for the orientation/debrief are TBD.
- First year or second year law student
- Excellent legal research and oral/written communication skills
- Experience and/or a demonstrated commitment to social justice, organizing and/or social movements
- Familiarity with issues surrounding racial justice, gender justice, civil rights, international human rights, national security law
- Miami Interns - Proficiency in Spanish a plus
- Boston Interns - Fluency in either Kreyol or French required (both are preferred)
Because we have limited resources, CCR strongly advises applicants to make every effort to secure their own summer funding. Possible sources include: your law school; local Bar Foundation; Equal Justice America, etc. However, if a student can demonstrate they diligently sought alternate funding but were ultimately unsuccessful, CCR will provide the student with a summer stipend.
Who Was Ella Baker?
Ella Baker devoted her adult life to social change. During the Depression she organized consumer cooperatives and wrote, taught, and lectured on consumer affairs for the Federal Works Progress Administration. In the 1940’s she traveled throughout the South, often alone in dangerous segregated areas, organizing chapters of the NAACP. She was an early executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ella Baker strongly believed that community members and young people could make significant changes in their lives. She said, "My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders." She seldom appeared on television or in the news stories, explaining that, "The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come." Many consider her greatest influence to be with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As an advisor to SNCC members who were generations younger, she rarely intervened, although her advice was often sought. She said, "Most of the youngsters had been trained to believe in or to follow adults if they could. I felt they ought to have a chance to learn to think things through and to make decisions."
The Center for Constitutional Rights is proud to honor her life and memory with the Ella Baker Summer Internship Program. It is our hope that many young people will be inspired to follow in her footsteps.
If you have specific questions about the Ella Baker Program, please contact Mr. An-Tuan Williams, Center for Constitutional Rights, Bertha Justice Institute Associate.
More information about CCR and our partners:
Center for Constitutional Rights: www.ccrjustice.org
New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice: www.nowcrj.org
Community Justice Project of Florida Legal Services: www.floridalegal.org/cjp
Bureau des Avocats Internationaux: ijdh.org/who_we_are/bai