Monday, April 14, 2008
A hearty round of applause to Mississippi Project co-founder Bob Rose '89, who was honored by the CUNY Law Public Interest Law Association last Friday at Hunter College. Rose, a lawyer and activist, recounted how he joined fellow CUNY Law students Jaribu Hill, Camille Massey, and Desiree Hopkins in renting three identical vans bearing New York plates for a journey that would take them to Project Voice in coastal Biloxi, MS, where they were hosted by former prison guard and whistleblower Andrea Gibbs); to people's lawyer Chokwe Lumumba's Jackson, MS practice to investigate the suspicious jailhouse hanging of Andre Jones and other prisoners, and finally to the Center for Constitutional Rights in Greenville, MS, where Rose and others investigated outright denial of voting rights to African American residents continuing into the early 90s.
The inaugural delegation had a frigid welcome. Letters to the newspaper editors criticizing their presence immediately began appearing after their arrival, making it quite clear they weren't welcome. CUNY Law professor Frank Deale joined the law students for a couple of days' respite in Memphis, and his presence kept the delegates going.
Rose, now a supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC, remembers hoping that "in the end, we had some impact on the community there. But it was clear to me on the ride home that the impact that the trip had on us was much greater. I'm very heartened that CUNY's continuing this project for both those reasons: to make those contributions to Mississippi and the cause for civil rights, and, I think it's going to help develop more strong, progressive, new lawyers."