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David Harris

  • Legislative hearings have become mostly theater

    October 28, 2019

    An op-ed by David J. Harris and Jean Trounstine: Last week we joined 200 other Massachusetts residents for a hearing of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary. The hearing, set to cover sentencing, corrections, and criminal records, had a list of 60 bills under consideration. As is common practice, verbal testimony was limited to three minutes per person, with the committee chairs retaining the right to take people out of turn. This, of course, is not unusual. The rationale is that with three minutes of testimony, all of the hundred or so people who wanted to testify would have their say. We have both been through this before and understand it is general operating procedure for our legislative process. But there was something so deeply flawed here that it forces us to question this approach to crafting legislation to guide the Commonwealth.

  • We need bias-free policing as much as hands-free driving

    October 2, 2019

    A letter to the editor by David Harris: In “Safer roads take a back seat to Beacon Hill drama” (Sept. 30), the Globe Editorial Board claims that lawmakers in “progressive Massachusetts” should be “embarrassed” by efforts to ensure that comprehensive data collection accompany pending hands-free driving legislation. In a state whose Supreme Judicial Court ruled that black men may flee police to avoid the “recurring indignity of being racially profiled,” counseling expedience over transparency and ignoring the established inequity in law enforcement is to have one’s editorial head in the sand.

  • How Should Boston Address Its History Of Slavery?

    July 23, 2019

    There's a new debate emerging over the proposed memorial to slavery at Faneuil Hall. The idea for the memorial emerged as many activists called for Faneuil Hall to be renamed, because of Peter Faneuil's history as a slave trader. But last week the artist who proposed the memorial — Steve Locke — said he was withdrawing his project. ... Guests ... David Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School.

  • Boston professors criticize Globe over Rollins

    July 16, 2019

    A letter to the editor by 19 Boston area faculty members, including Laurence Tribe, Dehlia Umunna, and David Harris.  WE ARE 19 FACULTY MEMBERS at universities across the Boston area, including Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, and Northeastern University. We wish to respond to The Boston Globe’s recent article, “Stopping injustice or putting the public at risk? Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins’s tactics spur pushback,” which contained reporting that appears to us to be, at best, seriously misleading.

  • MassHumanities Reading Frederick Douglass Together event image

    Frederick Douglass’ Fourth of July speech, then and now: A Q&A with David Harris

    June 28, 2019

    On July 2nd, people from across Massachusetts will gather at noon in Boston Common near the State House for the 11th annual public reading of Frederick Douglass’s historic address, "What to the slave is the Fourth of July?"

  • Boston officials need to fund violence prevention

    May 28, 2019

    An op-ed co-written by David J. Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, and Monica Cannon-Grant, founder and director of Violence in Boston: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh recently submitted his proposed fiscal 2020 operating and capital budget to the Boston City Council. From April 22 to May 21, the City Council held hearing after hearing on specific line items and proposed capital improvements. In all of this deliberation, there was one glaring omission: no hearing, and not a single line-item, on violence prevention. As temperatures rise and city officials hold forth about plans to combat an anticipated increase in violence, the city lacks any comprehensive plan for violence prevention.

  • Answering the Call

    February 22, 2019

    During the last two weeks of January, Lillie A. Estes had shared with many that this was going to be her year. This would be the year a nascent Community Justice Network came together. ... The film series recently became the Community Justice Network. On Jan. 28, Estes asked the network to interview David J. Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. Estes envisioned a blog post illustrating the relationships emerging from the network's launch. More connectivity, more co-creation. Reached Jan. 30, Harris, a longtime Estes supporter and collaborator, offered ideas about navigating that energy. "Lillie herself is really a model and a hero to me," Harris said. "Keeping up with Lillie can be a challenge. But one thing that's unbelievably consistent about her, that I encounter rarely, is her absolute commitment to certain models for creating community leadership. I've seen her step back and say, 'I'm not going to make this decision, this is a collective decision.'

  • For Section 8 Holders, Housing Options In Boston Are Limited

    February 22, 2019

    Malique Gordon has already moved three times since his 6-year-old son, Makari, was born. Gordon, 27, lives with his mother Maureen Nugent, who receives a Section 8 voucher. Section 8 — or the Housing Choice Voucher Program, as it’s now known — is a federal program that pays for a predetermined amount of rent.  ... “Suburban communities ... that are supposed to be the target for integration have certain characteristics, and we think those characteristics are good: They're clean, they're open, children have good schools,” says David Harris, managing director of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. “The question becomes, why it is that people have to move to the suburbs to have access to those things? Why isn't our policy designed to make sure all communities are endowed with those characteristics, where the amenities and the benefits are all the same?” Before his position at Harvard, Harris was the director of the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston. He argues “mobility” — moving people out of cities and to affluent suburbs — is the wrong solution. He calls it "policy by lottery.

  • Richmond Residents Pledge To Continue Community Justice Work Of Lillie A. Estes

    February 13, 2019

    Community members will gather Tuesday in Richmond to remember Lillie A. Estes. The longtime civic leader engaged countless local residents and was recognized nationally for her work. WCVE’s Catherine Komp spoke to friends and collaborators about her impact. ... David Harris: There are people and individuals in every community in this country who are doing work on the ground to rebuild their communities in the face of kind of devastation wrought by a system of racism and Injustice. Estes worked closely with David Harris and Harvard’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute as she built a framework for Community Justice in Richmond. Harris: She understood and was determined to do things differently. From my perspective and in terms of what we think of as Community Justice, that's what we need.

  • At “Beloved Streets” Event, Panel Discusses Race and Transformative Justice

    February 1, 2019

    Harvard affiliates and community leaders gathered Thursday evening for an event called “Beloved Streets: Race & Justice in America,” which marked the culmination of a winter-term course at Harvard Graduate School of Education of the same name. ... David J. Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and one of the course leaders, said the course attempted to create some spaces and places in a curriculum, fostering transparent conversations about important societal issues. ... “When I think about going into communities, what I think about is how can I operate from a place of listening,” said Emanuel Powell III, a Harvard Law School student and course participant.

  • To do good in the world

    January 30, 2019

    Alumni discuss pathways to public service work in advance of Public Interested Conference. ... For [David] Harris, Ph.D. ’92, that path was long and meandering. It began with his grandfather, a Unitarian minister who preached the imperative to demonstrate faith by improving society. Harris struggled, however, with how to go about that. He ultimately chose to follow his mother’s example and study sociology, but it would take him nine years and stints at three schools to finish his undergraduate degree. ... After 10 years there, he met with Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree about the possibility of joining a new institute at Harvard that Ogletree had created to work on race and justice issues. “It was clear to both of us that it was just a perfect fit. And it has been,” said Harris, who has been the managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice since 2006.

  • Indiana case shines spotlight on solitary confinement

    January 23, 2019

    Twenty-eight years. That’s how much time, in total, Aaron Isby-Israel has served in solitary confinement within the Indiana Department of Correction since his 1989 incarceration. Some of that time has been broken up by stints in general population, but Isby has consistently served his time in administrative segregation at the Wabash Valley and Westville correctional facilities since October 2006. ...As a lawyer who has followed and assisted in Isby’s litigation, David Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, said he viewed Isby’s time in isolation as a “second sentence.” There have been times when Isby’s physical health deteriorated because of his isolation, Harris said, though he praised the inmate for staying focused on his legal fight. It’s unusual for inmates in solitary confinement to maintain the mental strength Harris said is present in Isby. Indeed, Daniel Greenfield, a solitary confinement appellate litigation fellow with the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, said research shows the opposite is usually true: that is, prolonged isolation causes or exacerbates mental illnesses.

  • Howard School of Law Celebrates 150 Years

    January 14, 2019

    The enduring legacies of Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, Patricia Roberts Harris and countless other graduates of the Howard University School of Law (HUSL) are on full display this year as the historic school celebrates its Sesquicentennial anniversary. ... Dr. David Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice and a lecturer at Harvard Law School, said that Howard Law School is a critical piece of legal framework in the country.

  • David Harris receives 2018 Governor’s Awards in the Humanities

    David Harris receives 2018 Governor’s Award in the Humanities

    November 20, 2018

    In October, David J. Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School, received the Massachusetts Governor's Award in the Humanities. Harris was one of four leaders recognized for their "public actions, grounded in an appreciation of the humanities, to enhance civic life in the Commonwealth."

  • Incarcerated Youth Visit Harvard to Explore Career, Educational Options After Release

    November 2, 2018

    A handful of incarcerated youth traveled around Harvard's campus Thursday to learn about possible professional and educational paths they could pursue after their release from prison...The group also visited the Law School, where they spoke with David J. Harris, the managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. Harris spoke to the group about about issues ranging from community engagement to the justice system. Harris said he wanted to show the two students that there is a role for them in society after they are released. “We care about what happens to them, that we believe in them, and that we believe there’s a place for them and a contribution to make,” he said.

  • Charles H. Houston Jr., retired Morgan lecturer who founded scholars program at the University of Baltimore, dies

    August 7, 2018

    Charles Hamilton Houston Jr., a retired Morgan State University lecturer whose work extended the legacy of his father’s contributions to the civil rights movement, died July 15 from Parkinson’s disease at the University of Maryland Medical Center...The younger Mr. Houston worked closely with Howard University, the University of Maryland, College Park, and Harvard University, where its law school has been home to the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice since its founding in 2005. “He and his wife, Rose, have been part of the Houston Institute family from the beginning and we have been blessed by his spirit, grace, generosity and integrity,” said David Harris, managing director of the institute. “Joining us for so many of our events, Charles always brought a warmth and dignity that embodied his father’s legacy. His smile was at once inviting and contagious and his comments always filled us with insight.

  • Parole board still slow to release inmates 8 years after ex-convict killed officer, critics say

    June 26, 2018

    Dominic Cinelli was one year out of prison and on parole when he shot and killed a police officer the day after Christmas in 2010. Since then, the number of people released on parole has remained consistently low, the state parole board has been stacked with members with law enforcement backgrounds, and the board has become less transparent, according to a coalition of attorneys, criminal justice reform groups, and prisoner rights advocates. The coalition wrote Governor Charlie Baker on Monday, saying the board is taking longer to decide the fate of inmates and failing to properly consider their mental health and drug use disorders. “It’s not working. It’s a terrible system,” said David Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School, a research and civil rights advocacy center that signed the letter. “We are terribly backwards and emblematic of the punitive posture we have taken in this country for far too long.”

  • Get Out: Toward an Honest Commitment to Racial Justice

    February 27, 2018

    An op-ed by David Harris. Several weeks ago the Boston Globe published an opinion piece by editorial and staff writer David Scharfenberg in which he called for an “honest” commitment to racial integration. He dismissed the “gauzy 1963 version” of integration, insisted that “harping too much” on its virtues “can feel paternalistic,” and lamented the “disastrous busing experiment of the 1970s” which proved that “forced integration…simply doesn’t work.” Even so, he declared integration the “single most important racial justice strategy we’ve got” and a “good start” toward “true racial reconciliation.” There are several basic problems with the article. First, it conflates race and class, creating a set of contrasts between black/urban/poor and white/suburban/affluent, using them interchangeably, without definition, assuming readers share the implied associations.

  • Lifting Up Community Voices to Tackle Injustice

    January 2, 2018

    ..."How do you build a platform that allows the adversely impacted community members to step into their power?" At a time when many are feeling defeated as they try to fight against a racist and non-responsive government, many justice advocates around the country are asking this critical question. They recognize that nothing less than a total sea change in perspective will work: In order to create new policies and enhance community life, community justice organizers must turn to those most impacted..."Community justice grows out of the idea that entire communities are repressed, oppressed and held voiceless," said David Harris of Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice (CHHIRJ).

  • Harvard Symposium Examines Charles Hamilton Houston’s Enduring Legacy

    November 20, 2017

    Two universities recently convened a symposium to honor the work and influence of the late civil rights lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston. Harvard University’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice (CHHRIJ) and Clemson University’s Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education hosted “The Enduring Legacy of Charles Hamilton Houston: 3rd Biennial Symposium” at Harvard Law School last week...“The theme of building bridges to the future follows directly from the work of Charles Hamilton Houston, whose work was always built on establishing a foundation from which one could go further,” said Dr. David Harris, managing director of CHHRIJ. “He did not see school desegregation as an end but a beginning of a pathway forward. Although he would surely be disappointed in the delays we have experienced as a nation in closing the gaps between students of color and White students, he would applaud the efforts of all our panelists to eliminate obstacles and create opportunities.”...“We believe that there is so much unfinished business with regard to educational access,” [Tomiko Brown-Nagin] added. “Students of color still suffer disadvantages: disproportionate punishment, fewer resources, less experienced teachers. By working in the educational space around issues of access and quality, the Houston Institute continues the legacy of its namesake,” she added.

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    Redefining the role of prosecutors

    August 31, 2017

    The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School joined forces with the ACLU of Massachusetts to host a daylong conference at Harvard Law School in June, titled “Redefining the Role of the Prosecutor within the Community.”