Through the Northeast Brooklyn Legal Project (NBLP), Kevin (he/him/his) will provide transactional legal services and resources to underserved small business owners, which will stimulate small business enterprises in low-income communities.
The poverty-related challenges with the small business enterprise are not only systemic but have also left communities within Northeast Brooklyn (specifically Brownsville, East New York, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Myrtle, and Bedford-Stuyvesant—zip codes in Brooklyn with the highest poverty rates) economically stagnant. Within these zip codes, there are about 500,000 residents affected by the neighborhood’s poverty with less than 50 registered MWBE certified businesses. Thus, not only would this project provide needed business resources, but Kevin also serves to stimulate the growth of the communities’ economy.
Kevin grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, which motivates him to develop small business enterprise in economically stagnant communities in Northeast Brooklyn.
Kevin will execute outreach by connecting with clients and community partners through virtual workshops as well as legal counsel and education. He will facilitate small business ownership training and establish a network of minority small business owners. To further meet the project’s goals, Kevin will also conduct a legal needs assessment within each of its target areas to determine community needs.
Growing up in Northeast Brooklyn, all I could do is watch countless small businesses close, move, or fail to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Now as an attorney I have the tools necessary to make a valuable change to my community always needed.
Kevin Perry /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Erika (she/her/hers) will collaborate with crisis-response mutual aid groups nationwide to provide legal assistance and develop programs for replicable and sustainable grassroots economic regeneration.
At the outset of COVID-19, people instantly recognized that government aid and charity would be insufficient. Within weeks, communities all over the country began organizing mutual aid networks, at a scale unseen since the Great Depression. Transfers of money, food, and favors have radically reconfigured the flow of resources in communities and reshaped how households can meet their needs.
These groups have turned to the Sustainable Economies Law Center en masse for legal advice on issues relating to tax, governance, privacy, liability, and entity formation. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of legal support needed.
During her Fellowship, Erika will work closely with mutual aid groups as they grow and develop into permanently organized communities that can support their members with access to money, jobs, and economic stability. She will engage in education and training programs on financial regulations and services; help these groups build governance structures for sustainable growth, creating paid jobs and long-term skill development for current volunteers; and help them enter partnerships with local banks or credit unions for lending with borrower-friendly rates and terms.
Erika’s background motivates her commitment to developing a grassroots movement for economic justice and sustainable change.
When I was twelve, my mother—the breadwinner of our family—fell suddenly ill and passed away. Ultimately, it was a supportive community that empowered my family to recover and heal from our loss. In this moment, as communities grapple with the twin health and economic crises wrought by COVID, I felt really inspired by the mutual aid movement’s grounding in hope and community support.
Erika Sato /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Sam (he/him/his) will increase access to traditional transactional legal services for low-income, BIPOC, and women entrepreneurs and help them navigate the legal barriers to raising capital through accessible securities offerings.
Despite accounting for more than 50% of New York City’s population, Black and Latinx individuals own less than 10% of New York City businesses. Black or Latinx individuals that are able to start a business are pushed toward lower-financed ventures with lower survival rates. In fact, these entrepreneurs are three times more likely to have growth and profitability negatively impacted by a lack of capital than white entrepreneurs. However, the specialized nature of securities law means that for most under-resourced businesses, finding and/or paying the cost of legal counsel is a barrier to access.
During his Fellowship, Sam will help under-resourced businesses grow, create jobs, and build community wealth. He will do this by counseling clients on avenues to raise funds through accessible, exempt securities offerings. He will prepare all necessary legal documents and undertake any necessary compliance filings. Sam will work with Start Small’s in-house finance and marketing teams to effectively design, structure, and market the offerings. He will create an education program to inform entrepreneurs and the public about local securities offerings.
I want the businesses in the community to reflect the people of the community, while at the same time making sure that entrepreneurs can pay themselves a reasonable salary, hire the help they need, and build for the future.
Sam Karlin /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Oliver’s (he/him/his) project focuses on preventing COVID-19 fueled evictions of small businesses and residential renters at high risk of displacement in south Florida through direct legal representation, policy advocacy, and movement lawyering.
Florida municipalities have very few protections to offer low-income renters and small businesses facing pressures of the increased cost of living. As a result, renters who live paycheck to paycheck—disproportionately Black and Latinx renters—are at an increased risk of eviction. Many of these evictions take place in low-income neighborhoods already under pressure from developers looking to gentrify historically Black and Latinx communities. Oliver’s work has been focused on providing legal support to individuals and small businesses connected to historically Black and Latinx neighborhoods, and strengthening protections for renters at the municipal and county levels.
Oliver sees this work as the continuation of a multi-generational struggle to protect the most marginalized in South Florida.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
In the first year of the Fellowship, Oliver has:
- Co-run a weekly eviction defense clinic under the supervision of an attorney that provides pro se support to renters in their eviction matters
- Provided referrals and legal advice under supervising attorneys on topics including evictions and filing answers pro se
- Provided legal strategy to clients that successfully advocated for an unprecedented expansion of tenant legal protections in Miami-Dade County
- Provided legal support to tenants that successfully leveraged demands made to their landlord to receive concessions and rental support
- Helped with legal research requests made by clients in Allapattah to combat gentrification of a public library
- Delivered presentations on the legal protections available to renters in Miami-Dade County and more broadly in Florida
In the next year, Oliver plans to:
- Work to expand the capacity of the weekly eviction defense clinic
- Increase the number of clients represented directly in eviction actions
- Triage and identify opportunities for impact litigation
This wasn’t just a chance to work for the Community Justice Project, but to fight for equity and justice for marginalized people in the very community that my story started.
Oliver Telusma /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Shayla developed worker-owned businesses that can help individuals with low to moderate-income, people of color, and returning citizens in Southeast Michigan achieve economic self-sufficiency.
The majority of people C2BE serves are people of color, people with incomes within 200% of the poverty line, and those citizens returning to the community from incarceration. Worker cooperatives or businesses that are owned and controlled by workers themselves allow the members to overcome reliance on both public benefits and private employment and the barriers to employment faced by ex-offenders and employer discrimination. This project provided community education, transactional lawyering, and business support which helped citizens in Detroit achieve economic self-sufficiency by establishing worker cooperatives.
During the Fellowship period, Shayla:
- Conducted outreach with community organizations, businesses, and economic development partners
- Conducted community education sessions on various forms of worker ownership, the benefits of worker ownership, and the cooperative culture
- Provided technical assistance services such as feasibility studies, business plans, legal advice and drafting on the choice of entity, contracts, business conversion counseling, sources of capital for project partners and making mutual referrals with these partners
Shayla Fletcher will continue working with C2BE to provide business technical assistance to start-up businesses in Detroit. She also plans to continue providing technical assistance such as business planning (with an emphasis on planning for financial stability and growth) for potential worker-owned business conversions.
The Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center formed in September 2001 to provide legal, technical, research and policy assistance to grassroots community groups engaged in a wide range of community development efforts throughout New York City. My project focuses on providing transactional legal services in collaboration with community-based organizations. This will enable immigrant and low-wage workers, especially in the Bronx, to energize economic opportunities through cooperative enterprise and small business development.
Joshua worked to establish and promote land banking systems to further affordable housing in Toledo, Ohio and Dayton, Ohio. Additionally, Joshua identified existing properties and vacant parcels suitable for restoration and development, identify funding sources, and work with community development corporations, local public officials, HUD and other parties to develop sustainable affordable housing.
As an AmeriCorps Legal Fellow Rory worked with attorneys throughout Washington State to identify and responded to issues confronting low-income individuals facing foreclosure. The project will include ensuring that lenders comply with regulations regarding loan modification programs, working with housing counselors to spot legal issues that may require a client be referred to an attorney, responding to foreclosure rescue scams, and ultimately helping more people stay in their homes.
Many times, legal services programs target the symptoms of poverty, but not the root – economic disadvantage. Through this Fellowship, Anneliese aimed to provide essential tools to those looking to transform their economic circumstances through entrepreneurship. To improve access to credit, Anneliese launched a new microcredit program from the ground up. To respond to the void in legal assistance for micro entrepreneurs, Anneliese provided direct legal services and create opportunities for transactional pro bono.
Nonprofit community development corporations (CDCs) build much of the affordable housing and community facilities in low-income neighborhoods. They need legal help to get the most from new laws and programs that have encouraged green building in the private and public sectors. My goals are to help CDCs access green development resources so that residents can enjoy the health, environmental and economic benefits of green building, and to help Brooklyn A and other advocates develop an expertise in green community development.