This first week of June 2022 marks one year since I was named President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee. It has been an incredible journey already.
This has been a year of healing. So many of us lost so much in the past year-plus to the combination of the global pandemic and the toxic environment of racism and white supremacy. We have (re)connected and (re)built community in order to heal and grow. Even amidst the pain, we have leaned on each other and emerged stronger and more determined than ever.
This has been a year of building. As the obstacles to racial justice have grown, we have proven that we are up to the challenge—willing to try new strategies and new ways of thinking to tackle all manner of problems, from election subversion to virulent white supremacist violence. We have developed new capacities and new ways of mobilizing and making impact. This has included connecting with our partners and across movements in authentic and strategic solidarity—this is the only way we can achieve collective liberation. We have become more intentional architects of justice and better partners in the process.
This has been a year of rededication. We have set a higher bar for ourselves, aspiring to a new definition of impact measured by lives touched rather than activity in which we have engaged. We have spoken truth to power and secured important wins along the way. While there are no grand victory laps, we have learned to take and celebrate the wins, because doing so celebrates each other and rededicates us to the cause. There can be joy amidst the struggle.
It’s not lost on me that I get to do this work because of the investments in me. Nearly a quarter century ago I was a summer intern at the Lawyers’ Committee, learning my craft through hands-on training at the organization. And now I have come full circle, onboarding our summer interns this week as President and Executive Director.
I am especially grateful of the history of this storied organization I am now privileged to lead. When I speak of the Lawyers’ Committee and its founding in 1963 at the White House meeting convened by President Kennedy, I think about that summer—when George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to prevent integration in Alabama, when Medgar Evers was assassinated in the driveway of his own home in Mississippi, and later when the March on Washington captured the nation’s collective conscience here in DC.
Our founding came at turbulent time, and I believe we are once again in such a time. Our mettle and resolve are being tested anew. But the Lawyers’ Committee and our pro bono network are the steel that was forged in the fires of that summer of 1963. And, just like steel, we get stronger with every fire.
I’m honored to lead this organization today. I invite you to invest in my leadership and the continued healing, building, and rededication we must do together.
Damon T. Hewitt