Ep. 10 Sherrilyn Ifill – Jamaica, Queens

a headshot of Sherrilyn Ifill

Sherrilyn Ifill walks into court with history behind her as president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund. It’s the legal arm of the civil rights movement, and Sherrilyn is in its vanguard. Her hometown is Jamaica, Queens, a neighborhood in New York City where she grew up in the 1960s and '70s. That’s what Kevin Burke explores with her in this conversation, starting with the first question Sherrilyn asks whenever she takes on a new legal case: “Tell me about the history of this place.” That’s because she knows every town has one: the layers of time, buried and built over, that reveal why things are the way they are, from the bulldozing of Black neighborhoods to make way for highways to brutal acts of violence like lynchings, erased from the public square and, over time, memory. Sherrilyn wants us to see these scars of history all around us and how they impact the struggle for equal justice in America. She’s compared this process of discovery to swallowing the red pill in the sci-fi action film, The Matrix. Once you see the past in the present, you can’t unsee it. What is the connection between Sherrilyn’s civil rights work and her powerful personal story and all she experienced in her New York? Join us at the intersection of place, time, and memory for another episode of Your Hometown.

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