Heinz Endowments awards $400,000 to Pitt Law Center for Civil Rights and Racial Justice

The Heinz Endowments has approved a grant for $400,000 awarded to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law to facilitate community-engaged teaching, research, and service in the law school's Center for Civil Rights and Racial Justice.

The Center will serve as an intellectual hub for students, faculty, and community members to collaborate on civil rights and racial justice projects as part of the law school's commitment to legal issues related to civil and human rights.

The Center, headquartered in the Barco Law Building, is co-directed by Sheila Vélez Martínez, professor of refugee, asylum, and immigration law and director of Clinical Programs, and William M. Carter Jr., professor of law and an expert on issues of civil rights and race and the law.

"We are grateful for the trust and confidence bestowed upon the Center for Civil Rights and Racial justice by The Heinz Endowments," said Professor Velez Martinez. "This  grant will allow us to work  collaboratively with community partners, influence  public conversations on the intersection of race and inequality, engage students on experiential learning projects that interrogate and combat racial injustice and establish a Community Scholars Program that would provide access to PittLaw's resources to community leaders and independent scholars working on issues of race and social justice."

"We are very grateful to The Heinz Endowments for providing this support, which will help advance the Center's crucial work in advancing racial justice and protecting civil rights," said Professor Carter.

The grant will be instrumental in helping to establish the operational structure for the Center for Civil Rights and Racial Justice, engaging students in experiential learning and service projects that protect and advance civil rights, and empowering community leaders who are working to combat racial injustice, among other goals.

Pitt Law Dean Amy J. Wildermuth said the Law School is honored by the Heinz Endowments' gift. "The Heinz Endowments have a long history of contributing to the betterment of our region," she said. "We are deeply grateful for the confidence that they have expressed in the Center and its mission. This past year, in particular, has been a time of deep reflection and reckoning with systemic racism and structural inequity. As a law school, we have an obligation to ensure that we have truly fair and just systems in which all are treated with dignity and respect. The partnership of The Heinz Endowments will allow us to engage deeply in our communities and to tackle systemic disparities in police violence, prisons, housing, education, and health."

To kick off its work, the Center is planning both a conference and speakers designed to explore the current issues in our communities. The Center also will support several city of Pittsburgh entities that have requested the creation of externships for Pitt Law students to provide much-needed help on various civil rights issues, including reviewing police, housing, and prison practices.

The Heinz Endowments is devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Core to their work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive.