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Heeding the Call: Our Commitment to Racial Justice

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Heeding the Call: Our Commitment to Racial Justice

A message from Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." Martin Luther King Jr.

"An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future." Ta-Nehisi Coates

From the voices of two generations of moral leadership, Akin Gump heeds the call. We cannot remain silent, and we cannot look away. And we cannot accept the sad reality that too little has changed for too long.

We start by acknowledging and recognizing the most basic reality that systemic racism is a blight on our country and around the world. It has caused too much death, indignity and injustice to be allowed to fester as it has without sufficient challenge. We must commit to addressing racism and the deep wounds it has inflicted on our nation. And in making that commitment, we must combine immediate steps with a sustained, intense relentlessness of purpose.

Our commitment to justice, antiracism, humanity and diversity has been a core principle since the founding of our firm 75 years ago. It continues to guide us to this day. But it is also time to reimagine what we can do to effect change in our communities and what we can do with the special responsibilities and privileges we hold as part of the legal profession.

As a part of this commitment, we are making a $200,000 financial contribution, split between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Equal Justice Initiative. LDF has been at the forefront of some of the most important legal battles for justice and equality in our nation's history, and we are proud of our long-standing partnership. EJI has also been transformative in challenging racial and economic injustice in our country and in effecting meaningful, beneficial change for the citizens of our country. These financial contributions are a continuation, not the conclusion, of our efforts.

We will engage in dialogue, seek to educate and raise a call to action in our own firm. Leadership requires that we look inward as well as outward. We will listen, we will become smarter and we will act. We will take our long history of pro bono representation and ensure that we are using the talent and passion of our firm to directly address racial injustice. And we will seek to join forces with those who share our commitment—other members of the legal community; advocacy, professional and other allied organizations; and our clients—to maximize our impact.

In everything we do, we are inspired and guided by the life and deeds of our partner Vernon Jordan, a fighter against injustice for his entire life. Many of us have had the honor of discussing firsthand with Vernon his experiences battling to integrate public colleges and universities in the 1960s and his later tenure as the Georgia field director of the NAACP. In these times of profound reflection, we recognize that progress is not enough, and there is much work to be done. As Vernon has said, "We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give." It is time for everyone to find a way to give.

This moment is one for profound sadness and necessary action. It is worth reflecting on the words of Dr. King: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." But that doesn't happen by itself, and we cannot rely on destiny alone to determine which way the arc bends. We recognize Dr. King's "fierce urgency of now," and, as a firm, we will be doing everything we can to be part of bending that arc toward justice.

Kim

Kim Koopersmith

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