Posted by Hunter Headapohl on July 10, 2015 in Blog

Lawyer, DC resident, and Howard University graduate Sakira Cook visited the AAI offices to speak with AAI's interns about the Department of Justice's new guidance for Federal law enforcement regarding the use of race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation.

Ms. Cook told the story of her own personal development, from her grandparents growing up in the American South, her family’s interactions with law enforcement, to her career in law. After obtaining her law degree, she taught at her high school and later became the school’s legal counsel. This experience energized her to pursue a more policy-oriented approach to law, prompting her to serve as a Legal Fellow at the Open Society Policy Center where she researched criminal and civil justice reform. She currently serves as Counsel in the public policy department of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where she continues to push for reforms in civil rights, most recently regarding the types of racial profiling in law enforcement that led to the deaths of young African-Americans like Tamir Rice, Freddy Gray, and Michael Brown. She spoke to the interns about the need for the DOJ’s new guidance to close loopholes that allow for racial profiling at the borders or in cases of national security. She also discussed concerns that state and local law enforcement—who are not bound by the DOJ’s current guidance policies—were continuing to discriminate based on race, religion, ethnicity, and other markers of minority status as a matter of policy.

She currently works on ensuring that Title VI of the 1964 civil rights act—which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance—is applied to issues like voter ID laws, criminal justice, and government surveillance. The interns engaged Ms. Cook with a number of questions about her work in the legal field, and she offered professional advice to the interns that were considering a career in law. 

Hunter Headapohl is an intern with the Arab American Institute

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