Photo of Rafael Varela

Rafael Varela

  • Hosted by Community Economic Development Clinic at CUNY School of Law
  • Sponsored by The Paul Rapoport Foundation
  • Service location Long Island City, New York
  • Law school City University of New York School of Law
  • Issue area LGBTQ+ Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

The purpose of this project is to provide transactional legal services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, two-spirit and all LGBTQ people to create a queer economic network of support and uplift.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

LGBTQ people face massive poverty, violence and discrimination (even in the provision of civil legal services). New York City is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and many industries thrive off of the work of LGBTQ people of color, their ethnic heritage, the queer culture in which they live, and the ideas born of the intersection of all of these identities. This project will provide a pathway for LGBTQ people of color to take control of their economic circumstances by working with those looking to create entities that would hire, contract, mentor, support LGBTQ people of color and build, retain, and secure wealth and power in this community. While contract, transactional, and community economic development legal services are often too expensive, this project will provide the legal tools and resources for LGBTQ people of color to create and maintain worker cooperatives, small businesses, social enterprises, non-profit organizations, and other wealth and power initiatives for LGBTQ people of color.

The Right Person For This Project

Rafael is the right person for the project because:

  • Rafael has worked in numerous organizations in the service ofmarginalized and disenfranchised individuals as a paralegaland a student attorney
  • Rafael has worked in the Community Economic DevelopmentClinic for the past year as a Student Attorney and has workedon the incorporation of several different entities
  • Rafael, as a queer person of color and legal worker has manyconnections to community organizations and social spacesimportant to the LGBTQ community of color

Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship

In the first six months, Rafael will:

  • Formalize existing relationships with LGBTQ organizations andcoordinate new relationships to identify potential clients andidentify the specific transactional law needs of the community
  • Coordinate relationships with individuals and groups withknowledge on capitalization and initial capital fundraising.
  • Research and develop know-your-rights and how-to materialsand seek input and suggestions from community partners.
  • Begin consultations with individuals and initiate drafting ofincorporation documents with individuals who are ready.

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Catherine Sakimura

Host: National Center for Lesbian Rights

Sponsor: Anonymous

Corey Prachniak

Host: Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services Program

Sponsor: Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Jalise Burt

Host: New York Civil Liberties Union

Sponsor: Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel

Andrew Sta. Ana

Host: Sanctuary for Families

Sponsor: Anonymous