Minnesota Bar Association
In past years, Athena Hollins has met considerable resistance when trying to inform those in the legal community about systemic racism and its implications. But not this year.
“This year has been such an insane upheaval for everyone, personally and professionally, and that includes conversations about race,” she says. “Before now, people didn’t want to talk about it, and that’s all changed. To be honest, I’m excited about it.”
As senior director of diversity and foundations for the Minnesota Bar Association, as well as the bar associations for Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, Hollins has been focusing on designing CLEs that touch on topics like systemic racism and implicit bias, as well as the nuances of drafting legislation and lobbying elected officials.
Since the associations are nonpartisan, she feels they’re able to address these topics in meaningful ways designed to bring people of all political leanings together. That’s not an easy task in today’s political climate, but Hollins’ enthusiasm and passion for these topics is infectious, and has been driving valuable, much-needed discussion within the profession.
“I try to address the diversity topic in a way that’s empowering, and prompts deeper thought into what would be more equitable for everyone,” she says. “This is about systems that need to change, and when you can show people where the disparities are, why they’re happening, and the benefits of addressing those, they’re more open to change.”
Hollins doesn’t bring her valuable viewpoint and mission only to the legal profession, though. She’s also running for office, to be the state representative for District 66B in St. Paul, which she’s undertaking as a way to fight for systemic equity at a legislative level. She believes the murder of George Floyd highlights how elected leaders have failed Black and Brown community members, but she’s confident systems can be changed in profound ways.
“Of all the conversations I’ve been having during this crazy time, my best ones really come down to just two words,” she says. “Go vote.”
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