Black History Month
History. Tradition. Community.
February is Black History Month.
Since 1926, and the creation of Negro History Week by Carter G. Woodson, the accomplishments of persons of African descent have been recognized each February. The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights is proud to present Future History Makers, a profile series featuring emerging leaders from the Twin Cities African American community who share our ideals of advancing civil rights and remove barriers to equity.
Honoring The Legacy
“During the 1920s and 1930s, Lena Olive Smith was a prominent civil rights lawyer and activist. She made major contributions toward securing civil rights for minorities in the Twin Cities. Smith began fighting for the rights of others when she became the first African-American woman licensed to practice law in Minnesota in 1921. She was the only African-American woman to practice law in the state until 1945.” Learn More About Lena O’ Smith
Celebrating The Future
Today’s Future History Maker understands the commitment and dedication of Ms. Smith. He honors the contributions of Ms. Smith to the community. He is Andrew Gordon.
Andrew Gordon is a trial attorney and advocate for indigent clients, juveniles, and newly arrived immigrants and their families. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, Gordon once had high hopes of being a public defender. In fact, Andrew was a finalist for an attorney position with the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office until the county instituted a hiring freeze. Disappointed but not deterred, Gordon found work as a public defender in the City of Boston until his work visa expired. Gordon then returned to Minnesota spending three days a week volunteering at the Legal Rights Center while he applied for his green card. A year later, a staff attorney position opened. Gordon, who was now a permanent resident, applied and was selected for the job.
Gordon is now the Associate Director, of the Legal Rights Center. In this role, he supervises staff attorneys, manages volunteers, and conducts strategic planning and development for the organization. Gordon also contributes to the legal education of both new attorneys and the community by presenting lectures on legal rights, engagements and collateral consequences of a juvenile adjudication and/or criminal conviction. Currently, Gordon is representing 20 individuals with charges stemming from Black Lives Matter protests. Gordon’s commitment to community empowerment is fueled by his desire to marrying defense advocacy in court with advocacy in community.
What Motivates You
The opportunity to guide a client through a confusing legal process, and ensure their story is communicated. I enjoy learning from my clients and being able to impart that knowledge to the court, prosecutor, and general public.
Most Rewarding Work Experience
I enjoy working in the community helping to educate my clients and their families. In 2010, I was invited to Loring Nicollet Alternative School for a “Know Your Rights” presentation. The students were really receptive and have asked me to return each year since. Experiences like such allow me the opportunity to build relationships and really connect with the community I serve.
Advice for Aspiring Attorneys
Listen to your clients. Attorneys burn out when they stop listening. If you want to do this work well and do it for a long time- you must ensure your client’s voice is heard.
- Kingston, Jamaica
- Macalester College
- University of Minnesota Law School