It’s my first all-staff meeting, and per tradition I have to introduce myself with my name and a fun fact. I rise and say, “Hello everyone, my name is Rolonda and I’m a fourth generation Washingtonian.” That means that my great-grandfather, grandfather, mother and I were all born and raised in Washington DC. In four generations, you would think the city has changed quite a bit, but even in my short twenty years of life I’ve seen the city go through rapid transformation.
New grocery stores, high-end restaurants, and condos are springing up all around the city as a new strategy of “urban development” is being implemented. But with all new structures being created to enhance the new vision for DC, elements of the culture of DC like gogo music, mambo sauce, and even the DC accent are being wiped out completely. Historic residents who are primarily people of color are being rapidly displaced, and DC has become one of the most segregated and gentrified cities in America.
This summer I am interning at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Legal Aid’s motto is “Making Justice Real.” Legal Aid is an organization that provides a variety of legal services in the areas of housing law, domestic violence/family law, public benefits law, and consumer law to low-income residents of DC. This includes direct representation, legislative advocacy, and education and outreach.
At Legal Aid, I am based in the organization’s intake unit. So far, this has included taking calls from potential clients, having them summarize their legal issue for me, and either referring them to outside organizations or inviting them to intake interviews. I have also been to the district courts in order to file paperwork for attorneys in the clerk’s office, in addition to doing some HTML coding to help the launch of Legal Aid’s new online intake portal. Legal Aid aims to make justice real for those living in poverty in DC. I’m helping contribute to this organization’s mission by being their first point of contact through the intake department. One thing at my internship that gives me joy is seeing one of the people who I spoke with on the intake come in for an interview and have their case accepted by one of our attorneys, and finally get representation.
To me, progress is little things such as someone having legal representation who otherwise might not have it, and who can now get much-needed repairs on their homes, retain their public benefits, or gain custody of their children from abusive partners. My career goal is to work as a public interest/poverty law lawyer in DC and this internship is the first step on that path. I have only been at my internship for two weeks, but I’m amazed at what I have been able to accomplish in that time and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer brings. I’m working towards making justice real for the people of the city I call home.
Also, for those of you interested in linguists here is an article about the DC accent!