DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Central University's School of Law launched the Social Justice and Racial Equality Initiative, which will focus on a wide-array of issues impacting underserved communities.
"I think that people are saying that we need to sit down and try to do something," said Browne Lewis, Dean of NC Central's School of Law.
The death of George Floyd sparked protests across the country, focused primarily on police brutality. Lewis said NC Central's initiative will include but expand past criminal justice reform and relationships with law enforcement.
"We said there are so many other areas of the lives of people of color that are impacted by racism, so we started thinking about how can we approach this holistically? So we wanted to look at food insecurity, we wanted to look at predatory lending, lack of affordable housing," Lewis said.
Many of those issues are more pressing during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted minority communities. Lewis mentioned that lifting COVID-19 related moratoriums on evictions, for example, would have a widespread local impact.
"Some people have a right not to be evicted, but they don't understand that they have a right to not be evicted. So what we want to do is give people the tools to empower themselves to advocate for themselves," said Lewis.
Terris Riley, a second-year law student at NCCU, said the initiative fits perfectly with the ideals of being a lawyer.
"At the heart of being an attorney is advocacy. And as attorneys we are the voices of our clients and we are the voices of the community," Riley said.
In addition to advocacy, the initiative will establish the Social Justice Research Center, as well as provide a lecture series, online training modules, and partnerships with community stakeholders focusing on matters such as food deserts and in-school discipline.
Riley said this will also help students' educational efforts.
"At their young age, this is such a huge advantage because they actually get training that I have learned through life experiences, but this is in a very professional, strategic, and deliberate format," said Riley.
Lewis emphasized the goal of inclusion across racial and religious groups, and said people did not have to be part of the university community to take part in the initiative.
As part of the initiative, the School of Law will collaborate with NCCU's School of Business and NCCU Department of Criminal Justice through its Juvenile Justice Institute.