My name is James Nortey. I am an attorney, an advocate, and activist with the tremendous honor of serving as the next Chair of the Texas Civil Rights Project Board of Directors.
For over 30 years, the Texas Civil Rights Project has championed the rights of Texans both inside and outside the courtroom. The organization has evolved over the years from its work providing direct legal aid services to its current foci in specialized areas of expertise: racial and economic justice, criminal injustice reform, and voting rights. But TCRP has never wavered from its commitment to work deep in the trenches, fighting side-by-side with the Texas communities we serve to secure justice and liberty for all.
As a son of immigrants and a native Texan, I have lived in almost every corner of our great state. From Dallas to San Antonio, and from our border communities to Houston, my family has been fortunate to reap the benefits of our community’s investment in education, health, safety, and democracy. It is because of the shared sacrifice of so many others that I’ve had the opportunity to become a successful attorney, and just recently a new father to a bright-eyed, beautiful boy. Sadly, we know that not every community has been afforded the same opportunities to share in Texas’ prosperity. This is why TCRP exists and why I have chosen to support its critical, democracy-saving work for the last decade. This new leadership role on TCRP’s Board of Directors is one way I am paying my blessings forward.
My journey with this incredible organization began in the summer of 2010 as a summer associate at a law firm in Austin, Texas. I worked on a report that ultimately concluded that a major local school district allowed parents and other private parties to subsidize programs at schools in higher-income neighborhoods, but neglected to ensure that sufficient public funds got to low income students and their schools. Since then, I’ve remained engaged with TCRP as a volunteer, donor, and supporter. My volunteerism included joining TCRP’s Voter Protection Taskforce to staff a hotline helping voters exercise their rights and serving as a poll watcher to ensure that Texans can vote safely without intimation.
In the Fall of 2019, I attended a panel conversation hosted by TCRP about solitary confinement in Texas. I learned that instead of preparing individuals who are incarcerated for their eventual return to Texas communities, Texas uses solitary confinement to break down the people they cage, destroying their ability to interact with other human beings, and causing healthy individuals to descend into mental illness. In that same year, I was invited to join the Board of Directors, where I have served on the Governance and Development committees as well as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion taskforce.
But this is only a small snapshot of all the amazing work TCRP has done and continues to do. From filing emergency motions on behalf of families to end a cruel policy of separating children from their parents, to working to end the construction of a useless border wall, to reforming our state’s discriminatory bail system, TCRP is proud to partner with Texans to elevate their own voices and secure a better Texas for all us.
Now, as the newly elected Chair, I am prepared to meet this moment. Texas lawmakers have just enacted laws designed to restrict the right to vote just as the state is preparing to redraw political districts. Meanwhile, our communities are still reeling from the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ominous clouds of systemic racism and economic oppression continue to loom loudly and threaten to drench our hopes for a better Texas.
I don’t know all that the future holds, but I do know that I can’t win these battles alone. Neither can TCRP. Our efforts will only work with the support of Texans like yourself. We must continue to raise awareness about injustice, build solidarity and alliances across different lived experiences, and be unafraid to take bold, relentless action.
Thank you for your attention to my heart’s passion. I am in this fight because I care. I know that you care, too. Join us. We need you now.