Dear <<First Name>>,

A white teenager can bring a semi-automatic weapon to a protest over the killing of a black man by a white police officer, “to keep the peace.” He can kill two people but be exonerated because he acted out of fear that his life was threatened. He will not even be punished for illegally carrying the gun. Here at CFR we have to wonder what the verdict would have been in Kenosha had the teenager been Black and the protest about protecting the bodies and the rights of white people.

What exactly did Kyle Rittenhouse fear when he decided to carry the gun in the first place? The narrative that Black people should be feared has justified punishment that has ranged from lynching to mass incarceration, and that is not just history. Our present is still replete with laws and practices designed to protect, with impunity, the preferred status of white people and address their fear that their way of life is under attack. This verdict feels like another reminder that white fear will continue to drive law and policy, no matter the lethal consequences.

In the work that we do, defending parents and youth, who are nearly all Black or Brown, we believe deeply in the promise of a legal system that can deliver justice. Yet too often we see the system fall short in that promise. In our Juvenile Justice Practice--recently renamed our Youth Defense Practice (YDP)--we see the impact of more guns on New York city streets. We have met many more teens who tell us they too carry guns to protect themselves.  But we do not see them given the benefit of reasonable doubt. We do not see Kenosha’s mercy extended to them. We can not for a moment presume that they will be understood, or that judges and juries will accept their own solutions to address the fears that plague their lives.

We built our YDP as a logical extension of our family defense practice and our commitment to support and seek justice for Black and Brown communities. Like the parents we serve, our youth clients are often feared, demonized, and facing harsh penalties. And we know much of that would not be the case if they looked different. Lighter. Whiter.

CFR’s YDP now boasts five attorneys and three social work staff. Not surprisingly, we’ve seen cases withdrawn by DA’s and dismissed by judges who recognize that our interdisciplinary model connects teens with services they need. One case at a time, we’re trying to secure the promise of justice and also perhaps change hearts and minds. We’ve pursued systemic justice--we helped advocate for a new law, recently signed by the Governor, that will mean that youth will no longer have to appear in court in shackles. But the fact that such a dehumanizing practice was legal, all this time, says volumes about the narrative that our clients should be feared, rather than supported.

There is still so much work to be done. As we approach this holiday that celebrates gratitude, know how grateful we are to you, for all you do to help us deliver on the promise of justice.

All the best to you and yours this Thanksgiving,

Michele Cortese
Executive Director

We are grateful to all of you who joined us for our first-ever luncheon event, Celebrating Resilience, this past October. It was a great success, with terrific participation by Board members and staff, talking about what the work of CFR means to them.  One very special highlight was a conversation between three of our parent advocates and the public health historian and physician Mical Raz.  If you missed it, you can view it again here.

We extend a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all of our event sponsors and to our featured speaker Mical Raz for making this a truly impactful and successful event.



We are hiring!

CFR is hiring lawyers, social workers, advocates, a communications manager and paralegals. If you know anyone who might be interested they can apply here and contact with any questions.
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