Message from Lynne to Rutgers Students

November 13th, 2013

11/7/13

Brothers and Sisters:

It seems a long time ago in an other universe that I showed up in September, 1971 at Rutgers Law School, Newark to embark on my legal career.  Many of you have heard the story of how, after being a school librarian in Harlem and the Lower East Side and after we had been defeated in our righteous fight for community control of the New York City schools in the sixties–I realized that I had to concentrate on breaking free of the stranglehold of educational bureaucracy and go in a different direction.  I could not have done it without the man who is delivering this message for me–my partner, comrade in arms, my heartbeat–Ralph Poynter.  Thinking about my realization and what it meant for our future, I went to his motorcycle shop (small and virtually not for profit),mightily pregnant with our third child  and said that I needed to get out of the school system–I loved the kids but could no longer be a part of what was being done to them.  He asked,  What did I want to do?  I said, I always wanted to go to Law School.  Without missing a beat, without saying how can we afford that now, he said, Well I guess you better go.

And go, I did.  We were all but broke but Rutgers gave me what my grandchildren now call a “free ride”.  Admissions liked my militant background, I think. And so, in September 1971, I showed up on Newark Avenue for orientation –some boring speechifying I thought .  Was I ever wrong ??!!  First we were informed that Rutgers had achieved an admission of over 50% women, and as I looked around I saw sisters of all colors and ages and economic strata.  After prolonged applause, a small dynamo of a man with a long tie was introduced. His voice was not memorable but Oh! his words as he spoke to us that afternoon so long ago !! It was, of course, Arthur Kinoy,  Civil, Human Rights warrior and Innovator and Creative Force of the Law.  I came home that day with my heart and mind full of dreams–all Inspired by Arthur.

And in all the years that have followed, that flame that was lit that day has continued to flourish for me.  Shortly after my arrest in 2002, at a rally at Cardozo Law School,  Arthur spoke and reminded us all that cases like mine are won not only in the Courts but on the Streets.  Still true today and especially now, for me.  He also did me the greatest honor when he dubbed me a “People’s Lawyer”— my hero, Arthur Kinoy denoting Me with his highest praise.

Never in my legal career was I ever a great student or scholar.  As a matter of fact at Rutgers I may be more remembered for the motorcycle I rode to school than for brilliant analysis in class.  (As an aside I was so delighted to see that Al Slocum was also an awardee tonight.  He was my professor in Criminal Law (Procedure?) also that first semester.  He was my kind of down to earth, critical thinking, kick their asses Black Man that I have always loved and respected — and he could teach, too !)

To pick up the thread again,  I came to Rutgers.  I made mediocre grades except with the classes I loved, KInoy, Slocum, Smith.  I graduated, passed the bar (flunked in NY and had to take it again !) and the rest is history.  My career as a trial lawyer fulfilled my great desire for joinder against the State on behalf of the downtrodden, oppressed—and I loved it.  I still can’t pass those courthouses in which I worked for 30 years, with a dry eye.

Now I am ready to dedicate myself to the next phase of my life. First to come home myself and then I see myself fighting to bring home all of the political prisoners, who have sacrificed their lives for causes and community.  I see myself taking up the cause of women in prison and the inequities they and their children face.  Mostly, I hope I will be able to speak to new would-be lawyers who have just embarked on the yellow brick road toward justice and rouse their hearts and souls as Arthur Kinoy once did mine.

Thanks to the generous support of Resist, Inc. - Funding social change since 1967.