Brandeis began my transition into a radical that wanted to change the world and particularly take on the US role in repression and war. Where else could I hear Malcolm X, Marcel Duchamp, Allen Ginsberg and Paul Goodman challenge the ideas I had been raised with? Where else could I have as classmates, lefties, folk singers, writers and iconoclasts? But I also was pushed to go against the grain by those professors who were caught in the politics of the 60s, and the US narrative of the world. One downgraded my paper because I wrote that the Vietnam War was more about a national struggle than a Communist one–those blinders on that professor is a lesson I never forgot.
From Brandeis I went to Columbia Law School-a white male bastion: all white male professors and of over 300 students a handful of African Americans and a dozen women. We were all slated to go to big firms-at best I was thinking about working at one of the “liberal” ones. However, I was lucky enough to be there in 1968 during the protests, SOS activism and the occupation of the buildings. My beating by cops and watching the radical lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild defend us and teach us pushed me to take on the status quo. If there was pivotal year for me and the country it was that year. King and Bobby Kennedy were murdered. I was in Baltimore as a student helping the Legal Defense Fund on a lawsuit. Urban insurrection broke out; the Vietnam war was raging and the country was in flames. I could never again do business as usual.
After School I clerked for the most progressive federal judge I could find, the only Black woman on the bench, Constance Baker Motley. I joined the radical Center for Constitutional Rights and worked on many of the major struggles of the last 45 years. http://ccrjustice.org/ These included efforts to stop wars and spying, defending the Young Lords and Black Panthers, fighting for Native American land rights, for prisoner rights, and supporting Central American revolutions and Cuba. I was involved in both major Guantanamo cases-freeing Haitian HIV refugees in the 90’s and the current efforts to close the prison/torture camp the US runs today.
A few years ago I brought cases in Europe against Rumsfeld and other for torture. Out of that experience we founded the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin which is perhaps the most important human rights litigation group in Europe. http://www.ecchr.de/. We recently brought another suit in Germany against US torturers and have cases pending in Spain and France. Officials from the Bush administration travel to Europe at their peril–and most do not go at all.
For a number of years in the 90’s, I taught human rights litigation at Yale and Columbia Law Schools. Initially, one the old 1968 professors tried to block my appointment at Columbia. His antediluvian efforts failed.
Today I continue my activism and am the US lawyer for Julian Assange and Wikileaks. I am active on the rights of Palestinians and recently was involved in forming Palestine Legal to give legal protection to the voices of those in this country who speak out on behalf Palestinian rights. http://palestinelegalsupport.org/ Palestine was not initially an easy issue for me or my office to take on, but I made a trip to Occupied Territories a few years ago with my family and after visiting Hebron there was no way I could stand aside.
I travel constantly for my work. I visit Julian Assange in the London Ecuador Embassy almost monthly and spend time working out of the office of ECCHR in Berlin. I write an occasional book and latest is “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away with Murder.” I co host a weekly radio show on almost 100 stations called “Law and Disorder.” http://lawanddisorder.org/
Until recently I was on the Brandeis International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, but resigned in protest of Brandeis breaking its relationship with Al Quds and its President, Sari Nusseibeh. I remain saddened that I felt it necessary to leave that board and that the relationship with Al Quds remains fractured. http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/198991/brandeis-shouldn-t-cut-ties-to-palestinian-unive/
Despite the horror of current world and the outrageous wars that this country has engaged in continuously, and particularly the Iraq and Libya wars which led in large part to the horrors of today, I find there is no choice but to fight on. I am inspired in part by the actions and words of Center for Constitutional Rights founder William Kunstler:
“You do not need me to remind you that the struggle to obtain and maintain human liberty and to resist oppression and tyranny is the perennial obligation of all who understand its necessity.”