Racial Justice

For years it has been the mission of Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and the Cumberlands to advance, enforce and, defend the legal rights of low-income and vulnerable peopleEach day, we see first-hand the results when access to justice is denied. As such, we continue our fight in the courtrooms and in the community to support those without anywhere else to turn. There is much work to do and we cannot afford to wait for anyone else to do it.  


The Racial Justice and Equity Team advances diversity, equity, and inclusion by promoting justice and engaging in community outreach and education.

How We Started: Year 1

In response to the violent death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands spent time between June 1,2020 and June 1,2021 educating staff around racial justice and equity so we can become even more sensitive to the issues facing our staff and clients everyday. We formed a Racial Justice and Equity Team (RJET) made up of 30 staff and volunteers to spearhead efforts at Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. The Racial Justice and Equity Team (RJET) examined internal and external policies and  processes.  The committee also implemented changes including educating our staff and communities on substantive areas of law with an equity lens.We hoped to demystify and normalize the topic.Additionally, we worked to become more diverse in our vendors. As vendor contracts renew, we look forward to making additional changes.The Racial Justice and Equity Team celebrates diversity and fosters equity to achieve justice and inclusion.  Our goals are to:

Actively change policies and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions

Build awareness, solutions, and leadership for racial justice

Promote a community that is racially, culturally, and socially integrated and inclusive


What is Racial Justice?

The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures.

  – Race Forward, “Race Reporting Guide” (2015).


In Year 1 one of Legal Aid Society’s Racial Justice and Equity work, we began with joining the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) in:

Racial Justice

Along with partnering with NLADA, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands enacted our 2020 Response to Racial Justice by:

  • June 1 –Signing the NLADA FAIR Pledge
  • June 3 –Issuing an internal letter to staff regarding the murder of George Floyd
  • June 4 –Sending an external email to Community Partners regarding the murder of George Floyd
  • June 10 – Hosting our first Racial Justice and Equity Team (RJET)Meeting (Meets Every Wednesday @3pm)
  • June 20 –Providing office by office group counseling to process the George Floyd Murder and participating in protests facilitated by the Metro Human Relations Commission
  • July 6 –21 Participating in Day ABA Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge with facilitated debriefing sessions each week
  • August 1 -Finalizing a 1-Year Racial Justice and Equity Strategic Plan (Internal and External Focus)
  • November 4 – Conducting Harvard Implicit Bias Testing of All Staff and Volunteers
  • November 20 –Hosting the All Staff meeting facilitated by the Shriver Center Racial Justice Institute on the following topics:
    • Understanding structural racialization
    • Implicit bias
    • Racial anxiety & stereotype threat
    • Strategies for Mitigating Bias

Where We’re Going: Year 2 and 3

Year 2 and 3 of our Strategic Plan started by reiterating our commitment to Racial Justice and Equity in our own organization and communities. Legal Aid Society focused on specific goals to further advance our work within our organization and surrounding communities.

Racial Justice

Throughout 2021, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands continued our work by:

  • January 13 – Creating MLK Social Media Collage
  • January 13 – Starting a Semi-Monthly Racial Justice Presentation Calendar
  • January 27 – Securing Renewable Energy Sources in Minority Communities
  • February 10 – Forgiveness in the Time of BLM, COVID and Other Stressors- staff led
  • February 24 –Presenting on History of African Americans in America
  • March 1 – Hosting our Practice Group Retreat Trainings
  • March 10 – Providing a Group Discussion on Super Store Episode
  • March 24 –Presenting on the History Racial Disparities in Healthcare and the Role of LAS
  • April 14 – Presenting on the Racial Wealth Gap, Its Causes & Effects, and How We at Legal Aid Can Help
  • April 15 – Hosting a Legal Aid 101 for Minority focused Partner Agencies
  • May 11 – Providing Cultural Competency during our annual All Staff meeting
  • May 12 – Presenting on The Urgency of Intersectionality
  • May 26 – Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. City of LaGrange, GA discriminatory practice related to utility services
  • July 14 – Presenting on History Cultural Competency with Hispanic and Latinx clients
  • July 28 – Hardwiring Racial Justice and Equity using a Racial Equity Tool
  • July 9 – Participating in the Second Annual 21 Day YWCA Racial Justice and Equity Habit Building Challenge
  • August 11 – The Lone Rock Stockade and convict-leasing programs in Grundy, TN
  • September 8 – Discussion on Robin DiAngelo and Resmaa Menakem: Towards a Framework for Repair
  • October 12 – LAS recognized with the Nashville Bar Association Diversity Award
  • October 13 – Presenting on How We Can Better Support Indigenous Communities
  • October 25 – Presenting on the Housing Practice Group Discussion on Redlining
  • November 10 – Presenting on the Cultural Competency with Older Adults of Color presented by NCLER

In 2022, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands racial justice efforts focused internally and provided more opportunities for collaboration with other community organizations.

  • February 10 – Made intentional efforts to collect staff demographics regarding race and gender
  • March 2 – Outreach in Immigrant Communities facilitated by Worker’s Dignity
  • March 9 – RJET Mission Statement finalized
  • May 10 –  ALL STAFF Training – Creating an Open and Affirming Culture of Care for LGBTQ+ Staff and Clients
  • March 21 – LAS developed our Statement on Diversity for Grant Applications
  • March 2 – Inclusive Outreach Training Series began
  • May 10 – ALL STAFF Trainings
  • June 1 – LAS Awarded a two-year Equal Justice Works Fellowship to address the Racial Wealth Gap through curing Heirs Property
  • June 8 – Virtual Outreach Training: History of Queer Rights
  • June 9 – Created LAS branded LGBTQIA+ swag for outreach
  • June 11 and 25 – Participated in Pride month outreach activities
  • June 15 – Juneteenth Virtual Training
  • June 18th – Juneteenth Expungement Clinic
  • June 22 – Outreach in LGBTQIA+ Communities, Presenter: Dr. Marisa Richmond, LGBTQIA Rights Activist
  • July – Presentation to Rutherford Co. Cable regarding DEI
  • September 2022 Development of an RJET page for the LAS website
  • October 4 – Implementation of Affinity Groups to create safe spaces for community
  • November 11 – ALL STAFF Discussion Topic on RJET
  • November 16 – Best Practices for Engaging with Veteran Communities

Additional 2022 RJET Activities included: 

  • State, National, and Regional Committees and Taskforces
  • Collaborations for legal services in all communities


Snapshot of Our Team as of 5/17/22

The following graphs highlight the breakdown of our staff demographics by ethnicity.



Racial Justice