BY: Melissa Rodney, 3L | DATE: Feb 17, 2021

“One day, I know the struggle will change. There’s got to be a change — not only for Mississippi, not only for the people in the United States, but [for] people all over the world.” 

 — Fannie Lou Hamer, American Civil Rights Activist and founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), Freedom Summer, and the Freedom Farm Cooperative (FFC).



Click on the zoom link, wait the few awkward seconds for the boxes to appear on the screen, and then, one by one, as the black boxes change to eager faces, you see Professors Jaribu Hill ’95 and Chaumtoli Huq, ready to discuss the history of labor laws and organizing efforts of Black and Brown workers.

This was our experience for the first two weeks of the bright new year. We took a virtual journey down to the Mississippi Delta to experience the true essence of movement lawyering at the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights. We read and discussed the ways in which history has shaped unions and organizing, and we led critical discussions around other legal practice areas related to work and labor, including human rights and disability law. The program this year centered around a gripping employment discrimination case and the notorious murder and trial of Emmett Louis Till.


historian and filmmaker Keith Beauchamp smiles at camera on zoom

Historian and filmmaker Keith Beauchamp      


The student group worked with a Workers’ Center client who was wrongfully terminated from her job, days after she and her husband contracted COVID-19. Her husband died three days after her termination. One group researched current ADA guidelines regarding COVID-19-related allegations of discrimination, while another group, led by student Karimah Shabazz, interviewed the client to discuss the case further. A final group did research around 5th Circuit damage claims and vocational expert witnesses. It is certainly no surprise that the pandemic has introduced a novel set of cases centered around COVID-19, disability, and employment discrimination.

Several students also researched information related to the reopening of the Emmett Louis Till murder investigation. They met with historian and filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, who discussed how this tragedy was a catalyst for the civil rights movement and organizing efforts in the South. The group compiled a memo regarding the procedural history of the original case, information related to the grand jury hearing in 2007, and information about witnesses, and reviewed cases related to posthumous convictions.

Another team of students reviewed legislation for temporary workers, meeting with the national organizer for Right to the City Alliance Jayanni Webster, and Associate Counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Change Aaron Greene. Both Jayanni and Aaron, who have dedicated their lives to social justice, indulged in critical conversations around movement lawyering and the need for strategic efforts for human development when it comes to organizing.


three people on zoom- one is Professor Frank Deale.

Professor Frank Deale joins the delegation for a discussion on litigation strategies and legal solutions.


Two law students looked into ways in which future Mississippi Delegation participants can continue to do work within the State of Mississippi. In 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order which bans non-essential state travel to Mississippi. It followed the enactment of a discriminatory law that allows business and non-profit groups to refuse service to people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As long as the Executive Order is in effect, any state-funded or state-sponsored travel to Mississippi is banned.


Jayanni Webster (She/Her) – National Field Organizer. Jayanni is a national organizer for Right To the City Alliance, on Zoom in nglasses and a sleeveless top.

Jayanni Webster, National Field Organizer. Jayanni is a national organizer for Right To the City Alliance.


Since 2017, CUNY Law’s Mississippi Delegates have worked out of Memphis, Tennessee, and traveled into the Mississippi Delta to meet with Ms. Hill. It is the goal of the 2021 Mississippi Delegation to advocate for an exception to this ruling so that legal services offered by CUNY Law can be done within the municipality of Greenville, where the Workers’ Center is located. The group is also seeking support for permanent accreditation.

Please see the link to the Letter of Support below.

 → We invite CUNY Law’s community of advocates to add their names to our letter requesting permanent accreditation for the Mississippi Delegation so that it can continue to collaborate with Southern advocacy organizations and grassroots initiatives dedicated to civil rights, voting rights, and workers’ rights.

 Sign the Letter of Support

More information about the Mississippi Workers Center

Twenty-seven years later, the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights has evolved into a multi-project organization dedicated to supporting non-union workers through client-centered legal advocacy was founded by Attorney and alumna Jaribu Hill in 1994. That year, a delegation of CUNY Law students traveled to Mississippi to investigate the suspicious jailhouse hanging of Andre Jones, one of almost 50 men, 24 of which were African American, who died in Mississippi jails under similar circumstances.

The group also went to the Center for Constitutional Rights in Greenville, Mississippi, to investigate allegations of the outright denial of voting rights to African American residents. 27 years later, the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights has evolved into a multi-project organization dedicated to supporting non-union workers through client-centered legal advocacy.  


Missisippi Delegation Students on Zoom

Mississippi Delegation Students meet on day one.


Congratulations to the 2021 Mississippi Delegates!

Divya Babbula

Alice Gilmore

Mohammed Hossain

Marina Kumskova

Brian Lozano

Matt Propper

Melissa Rodney

Karimah Shabazz

Uruj Sheikh

Stephanie Sorquira