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Sparer Symposium 2020

Friday, February 7, 2020
8:30 am - 5:30 pm
Fitts Auditorium, Penn Law


Acclaimed lawyer, civil rights agitator, and North Philadelphian Cecil B. Moore once famously proclaimed: “I don’t want no more than the white man, but I won’t take no less… [so] let’s fight the damn system!” Nearly fifty years later, the “system” in Philadelphia continues to subordinate people of color, especially Black people, and to reinforce white supremacy in our nation’s poorest big city. Accordingly, Philadelphians of color continue to engage in the struggle for racial and economic justice and to refuse to “take no less.” How have grassroots organizers in Philadelphia built power, shaped the city, and fought for liberation in the face of entrenched white supremacy? And what role might lawyers and the law play in the battle for true and transformative justice in Philadelphia? 

Join us for the 39th Edward V. Sparer Symposium, titled “Philly Rising: Lawyering and Organizing for Racial and Economic Justice,” featuring local academics, practitioners, and organizers mobilizing against systems of racial oppression and marginalization in Philadelphia. The symposium will take the form of moderated panels highlighting how Philly-based organizers and lawyers have responded to racial and economic injustices in housing, incarceration and policing, environmental racism, and education.


8:30 a.m. Continental Breakfast and Registration
9:00 a.m. Opening Remarks
9:30 a.m.

Breaking Down Barriers: Ensuring the Promise of Healthy Affordable Homes (1.5 ethics)

  • Kendra Brooks, Philadelphia City Council Member At-Large
  • Daniel Aldana Cohen, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania; Director, Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative
  • Leonard M. Dow, Stewardship and Development Specialist, Everence
  • Rasheedah Phillips, Senior Advocate Resources & Training Attorney, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
  • Barry Thompson, President, Philadelphia Tenants Union

11:00 a.m.

Education & Its Role in Social Justice: Avenues for Change (1.5 ethics)

  • Sara Goldrick-Rab, Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology, Temple University
  • Ismael Jimenez, Philadelphia Teacher, Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School; Chair, Caucus of Working Educators
  • ShaVon Savage, Principal, Henry C. Lea Elementary School

12:30 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m.

Environmental Justice: Cultivating Community Power to Fight Corporate Interests and Environmental Racism (1.5 substantive)

  • Nicolas O’Rourke, Director of Organizing, Working Families Party of Pennsylvania; Pastor, Living Water United Church of Christ
  • Jerome Shabazz, Executive Director, Overbrook Environmental Education Center
  • Nicky Sheats, Director, Center for the Urban Environment of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University
  • Felicia Teter, Diversity & Equity Consultant, Deep Blu Womyn Company; Community Organizer, Indigenous 215 & Philly for REAL Justice

2:30 p.m.

Philly’s Prison Industrial Complex: Rethinking Punishment and Empowering Communities (1.5 substantive)

  • Sundrop Carter, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition

  • Robert Saleem Holbrook, Director of Community Organizing at Abolitionist Law Center and Co-Founder of the Human Rights Coalition
  • Naji Mujahid, Attorney in private practice specializing in Criminal Defense and Child Custody

4:00 p.m.

Keynote Address (1.0 substantive)

  • Michael Coard, Adjunct Professor, African Studies Department, Temple University; Founding Member, Avenging the Ancestors Coalition

5:00 p.m. Closing Remarks and Reception

This program has been approved for 7.0 (4.0 substantive and 3.0 ethics) total CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $280.00 ($70.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check made payable to 
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.