As a student at Harvard Law School, native St. Louisan and former tennis pro Blake Strode would often spend his weekends in Boston knocking on the doors of recently foreclosed homeowners.
“We’d ensure them that they have a lot of legal rights,” he said, speaking of his work of Project No One Leaves, a student practice organization, “and try to help them weather the storm of foreclosure.”
Before Ferguson exploded in the fall, Strode said he might have pursued a career in Washington, D.C., where he had worked the past two summers – including an internship with the Department of Justice in the civil rights division’s voting section. However, the police brutality cases in Ferguson, Cleveland and Baltimore became a “defining theme” for many of his classmates, he said, and they spent their last year in law school holding “die-ins” and questioning the legal system.
“For a lot of students, it changed our focus, and it changed the kind of work that was being done by students,” he said. “It changed our conception of justice so that people saw the legal imperfections in lot of ways – which is huge and the first step in creating change. That’s what’s happening in St. Louis.”
Strode has decided to return to St. Louis to work with the Arch City Defenders, the nonprofit that has pushed for systematic reform of municipal courts in Missouri. Strode said there’s a lot of energy focused on building a more equitable region in his hometown, and he wants to be part of “harnessing” that energy towards helping marginalized residents. That’s one of the things that drew him to Arch City Defenders, he said. The nonprofit provides legal aid to such residents, including homeless, battered spouses, veterans and low-income residents.
“Arch City is a good example of an organization that is giving people a means to have a voice in our legal system,” Strode said, “and working to protect and preserve the laws that currently exist while fighting to expand those rights.”
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Filed in: In the News
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