Working for Racial Justice and Equity

Anil Mujumdar, Brenita Softley, and Kwamena Blankson

Kwamena Blankson will moderate a panel discussion among advocates of color whose work confronts the intersection of mental health, race, and carceral systems rooted in America’s history of discrimination by design.

As Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at The University of Alabama School of Law, Anil Mujumdar teaches courses on Poverty Law and Human Trafficking. Prior to teaching at Alabama Law, he taught as an adjunct at The University of Alabama in both the American Studies Department and the Department of Race and Gender Studies.

He has represented victims of child sex abuse and continues to litigate civil claims on behalf of survivors of human trafficking. Additionally, he has represented cities and counties in the national opioid multi-district litigation, which the Washington Post has described as “the largest civil action in U.S. history.”

He is one of twelve members of the ACLU’s national Executive Committee, serves on the ACLU’s national Board of Directors and is past-President of the ACLU of Alabama. He currently serves as President of the board of directors for AIDS Alabama and serves on the board of directors for Legal Services of Alabama.

In addition to the white-collar work on which he has spent the majority of his legal career, Professor Mujumdar is counsel in prison conditions litigation brought to improve accessibility and mental health care for people with disabilities in the Alabama prison system.

Brenita Softley’s desire to advocate for the most marginalized in society led her to the School of Law at the University of Alabama, where she began exploring criminal defense work through multiple internships.

Working with a Public Defender, she saw up-close the glaring connections between poverty and the criminal “justice” system. At the Children’s Rights Clinic, she saw how the school to prison pipeline continues to target people in poverty, especially in communities of color. At the Southern Center for Human Rights, she worked on capital cases where racial bias and systemic injustice send people of color to death row even when they are innocent. And at Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, she was able to work exclusively on justice system reform in Alabama, with particular emphasis on racial justice and systemic racism in laws and policies, on economic justice and the criminalization of poverty, as well as on mass incarceration and chronically unconstitutional prison conditions.

These experiences fueled her longing for a criminal legal system that does not perpetuate racial disparities in arrests or sentencing, one that does not punish people for simply being poor, and one that does not give vulnerable populations reason to question whether police will protect and serve them… or kill them.

Attorney Softley currently works at the nonprofit Capital Appeals Project in New Orleans.

As an immigrant of color who values his “otherness,” Kwamena Blankson has built his career on addressing issues of justice and equity in historically underserved and underrepresented communities.

For nearly 15 years he served as a Legal Advocate for patients at Connecticut’s largest locked psychiatric hospital. He continues to engage in the never-ending work of liberation and the abolition of poverty, stigma, and oppression, not only as the current president of NARPA but also as poet-in-residence at Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet (in Middletown, CT) and poet/composer for the Red Line Dance Collaborative of Wesleyan University.