Racial Equity Institute Introductory Groundwater Training Set For May 9 At the Bar Center


By Niya Fonville

Imagine being asked “Hey girl, what attorney are you here for?” by a court official or having a client you have never met claim (in a phone consultation) that “all the N-word and Mexicans are taking over and I can’t get help.” Then imagine being expected to zealously advocate for clients and be confident in the judge’s decision in spite of these statements to you. Now imagine being a 25-year-old, newly minted attorney when these “conversations” take place.

I joined the Minorities in the Profession (MIP) committee after completing the NCBA’s inaugural Leadership Academy class in 2011. I had no idea that the relationships and connections formed would be as meaningful to my professional and career development as they have been. Quite frankly, I was a young, black female in rural Western N.C. who longed for a sense of community—a sounding board to help me grapple with feelings of inadequacy, particularly in the face of the aforementioned experiences—and, simply, the familiarity that comes with being surrounded by people who look like you. My co-workers were great, but there were unique aspects of my racial identity that the most well-meaning colleague could not fully comprehend. This is where MIP came into play. Over the last eight years, the members of MIP have supported me through some of my toughest professional and personal situations and allowed me to continue to have faith in this profession. It is now an honor to lead this group.

Who We Are 

MIP strives to:

  • increase the visual and substantive presence of minorities in the legal community and the NCBA,
  • enhance the quality of life for those minorities in the legal profession,
  • highlight the impact of the state’s minority lawyers, and
  • educate the public about the concerns of minority professionals.

We achieve our goals through our subcommittee and between six and eight annual programs. Our work is divided into two categories: (1) preparing to practice — geared toward high school, college, and law school students and (2) promoting the practice — aimed at current legal professionals. More information about our specific programs can be found on the MIP webpage.

Who We Are Not 

MIP is not the “black” committee. Yes, this committee was established at a time when the number of black attorneys (the focus of diversity at the time) were not at its current level. Yes, the majority of our members self-identify as people of color. But we are not one dimensional in our identities. We are a multifaceted group of minorities and allies who work together to ensure members are valued and supported. We are intentional in our commitment to furthering the notions of equality and equity despite our nation’s sordid history of discrimination and systemic racism.

Joint Efforts 

There is still much work to be done with regards to inclusion. It is imperative that committees, sections, and divisions find ways to work together to dismantle the system of racism that plagues our society. JJCR and MIP ask that you join our efforts. On May 9, our teams, along with the Education Law and Criminal Law Sections and with help from the North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment, will host the Racial Equity Institute’s introductory groundwater training at the Bar Association. Consider joining us for this FREE event as we engage as agents of social change.

By Elysia Prendergast-Jones 


JJCR stands for Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights. JJCR is a section that advocates for the rights of juveniles and children in all settings. One of the most recent and notable matters is “Raise the Age” legislation or the formal name, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act. Partly, this act increases the age of juvenile court system to cover crimes that may have been committed by 16- and 17-year-olds for Class A-G felonies. This change also includes access to online juvenile records for juvenile court named JWise and has a school component with the creation of G.S. 7A-343(9)(g). Many of the JJCR members have been involved in the creation and writing of this change in the law.

JJCR has taken an active stance in fighting the prison pipeline in North Carolina. Our current chair works with Legal Aid Of NC, Advocates for Children’s Services, that focuses on helping students access to rights such as IEP’s (individual education plans), 504 medical plans, as well as fighting school suspensions and expulsions. If you have a passion for working with or for children and juveniles, considering joining our section or asking me more about our work.

Why I Joined JJCR

I joined JJCR because I was fighting for children in the court systems in abuse, neglect, and dependency cases on the appellate level. As a former teacher and counselor, I see the injustice in the court system and the school systems. I have also previously defended juveniles and see the need for better protections.

One of my first cases representing a juvenile was in a county that had a pre-court system for juveniles. The program allowed for juveniles to work with the probation office in receiving counseling and other programs to avoid the court system. However, part of that system included family counseling. My client made a mistake and was following through with his portion of the program, but his parent did not attend the counseling sessions. His parent stated that because she had other children, she did not have time to care for just one. My client ended up in the court system at a young age for a minor mistake. I fought for him and for accountability for his parent in that case. Ultimately, they all received assistance and I was able to work to clear his record. We work hard in JJCR so my client and the other children that enter the court system will have a fair shot at justice. Join me in the fight!