The Honorable Nelson A. Díaz Professorship in Law Annual Lectureship
Affirmative Action –
A Latinx Perspective
Discussion and Reception
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Temple University Beasley School of Law – Moot Court Room
4:00 PM EST
Reception to Follow
about the event
Honorable Nelson A. Díaz’s vision of sharing the pivotal role of Latinx civil rights contributions in the United States is in keeping with his commitment to civil rights for all. In the inaugural celebration of the Professorship, panelists discussed Mendez v. Westminster (1946) (California), a landmark school desegregation case and precursor to Brown v. Board of Education.
Considering the upending of affirmative action in college admissions by the U. S. Supreme Court in SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. UNC, the second celebration of the Professorship in Law will focus on affirmative action.
Dr. Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez
Director, Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (CENTRO)
Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez is an Afro-Puerto Rican writer, teacher, and scholar from Hoboken, NJ. She is Professor in the department of Africana, Puerto Rican, and Latino Studies at CUNY Hunter and is the Directora of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (CENTRO). She is the author of the award-winning book Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature (Northwestern University Press, 2020; translated by Editora Educación Emergente, 2023), and the forthcoming book, The Survival of a People (under contract with Duke University Press). Her published work can be found in Hypatia, Decolonization, CENTRO Journal, Small Axe, Frontiers Journal, Hispanofilia, Contemporânea, Diálogos, and Feminist Formations.
A first-generation high-school and college graduate, Dr. Figueroa-Vásquez is passionate about mentoring underrepresented and first-generation students. She earned her BA in English, Puerto Rican & Latino Studies, and Women’s & Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick (Douglass College) and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. At her former institution, Michigan State University, she founded the Mentoring Underrepresented Students in English Program (MUSE), the Womxn of Color Initiative, #ProyectoPalabrasPR, and the award-winning digital/material project Taller Electric Marronage.
She has served on the leadership boards of the American Studies Association, The Puerto Rican Studies Association, the Caribbean Philosophical Association, the Latin American Studies Association, and the Modern Languages Association. Dr. Figueroa-Vásquez was a Duke University Mellon SITPA Fellow, a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, and a Cornell University Society for the Humanities Fellow. She is the PI and co-director of the 2022-2024 Andrew W. Mellon funded “Diaspora Solidarities Lab,” a $2M Higher Learning project focused on Black feminist digital humanities initiatives that support solidarity work in Black and Ethnic Studies.
Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School
President Emeritus Latino Justice, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF)
Juan Cartagena, a leading voice on equality and nondiscrimination, has successfully used the law to effectuate systems change for the benefit of marginalized communities. A public speaker, litigator and educator, Mr. Cartagena, formerly the President & General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University School of Law. Juan currently teaches constitutional and civil rights law at Rutgers Law School in Newark, and Columbia Law School in New York City. He is a former Municipal Court Judge in Hoboken, NJ and has practiced law, exclusively in the public interest, for over 40 years.
Juan has written numerous articles on constitutional, human and civil rights laws. His current research interests include the effects of mass imprisonment on Latino communities. From the 1980s to the present, Mr. Cartagena has over 150 opinion placements in El Diario – La Prensa (the country’s second largest Spanish newspaper), The Huffington Post, National Institute for Puerto Rican Policy, Newsday, and Gotham Gazette, among others, on matters involving voting rights, criminal justice, immigrants’ rights, English-Only, civil rights and other issues. He has also appeared on MSNBC, Univision, Telemundo, and ABC-TV and currently provides occasional commentary on the Hispanic Information Telecommunications Network (HITN).
Donald P. Harris
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liaison Professor of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law
Donald P. Harris is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liaison at Temple University Beasley School of Law.
A specialist in international intellectual property, Dean Harris joined Temple University Beasley School of Law in 2003, and teaches in the areas of intellectual property and commercial law. His courses include: Introduction to Intellectual Property, International Intellectual Property, Patents, and Uniform Commercial Code: Sales. He received his J.D. from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, where he received the dean’s award for outstanding public service and the pro bono service award. Dean Harris also received an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin, as a Hastie Fellow, specializing in international intellectual property.
Prior to joining Temple, Dean Harris practiced intellectual property law, specializing in patent litigation, as an associate in the San Francisco office of Cooley Godward. Dean Harris has spoken at numerous symposia and colloquia, and has written numerous articles on international intellectual property, including articles discussing the international intellectual property treaty, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
HONORABLE NELSON A. DÍAZ
Honorable Nelson A. Díaz
The Honorable Nelson A. Díaz, is a distinguished lawyer, respected jurist, successful partner, exceptional public servant, Fortune 100 corporate director, activist, columnist and author. In 1972, he graduated from Temple University’s James Beasley School of Law and in 2021, he created the endowed Honorable Nelson A. Díaz Professorship in Law at Temple. Presently, he is a member of Temple University’s Board of Trustees, of Counsel at Dilworth Paxson and co-founder of a national nonprofit, Hispanics in Energy.
Mr. Díaz is a trailblazer who broke many barriers. He was the first Latino attorney to pass the Pennsylvania bar, the first Latino Judge in the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the first person of color to be selected Administrative Judge in the Court of Common Pleas, the first Puerto Rican White House Fellow serving Vice President Walter Mondale, the first Puerto Rican Japan Society Fellow, and the first minority General Counsel at United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He is a proud co-founder of Black American Law Student Association (BALSA) at Temple University School of Law and co-founder of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania. Judge Díaz served on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure Rules Committee and the Committee on Racial and Gender Bias.
From his humble beginnings, this native New Yorker grew up in a public housing development in Harlem. He dedicated his life to fight for the expansion of civil and human rights for all. As a recipient of three United States Presidential Appointments, his public service exemplifies the qualities of intelligence, imagination and judgment impacting public policy nationwide as evidenced by the “Díaz Opinion”. This “breakthrough opinion” helped inaugurate a new model for affordable housing development using mixed finance through public/private funding and mixed low income and market rate units to revitalize housing for the poor.
As champion for diversity, equity and Inclusion, Judge Díaz has mentored young professionals throughout his career. He advocated for marginalized and underrepresented groups, including African Americans and other communities of color, Soviet Jews, women, Latinos and the Puerto Rican diaspora. As a leader in economic development, pioneer in court reform, champion for fair housing, fighter for bilingual education, employment and voting rights, as well as, immigration protections, Judge Díaz positively impacted the lives of the voiceless and the most vulnerable.
Nelson A. Díaz monitored elections in Latin America; he was the first American Judge to sit on a Japanese Court as a Japan Society Fellow; he fought for the human rights of Soviet Jews in USSR and he taught the American legal and jurisprudence system in Albania, Peru, Columbia and China. As a co-founder of the Latino-Jewish Coalition of the American Jewish Committee, he promoted stronger collaboration between the two communities. This Fulbright Scholar, received five (5) Honorary Doctorate Degrees and numerous awards in recognition of his legal contributions including the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award. The Legal Intelligencer awarded 100 of Pennsylvania’s most influential attorneys with a Lifetime Achievement Award including Judge Díaz.
In his numerous ground-breaking professional roles, as a partner in a Top 100 law firm, City Solicitor of Philadelphia, or Corporate Director of Exelon Corporation, a fortune 100 company, Nelson Díaz has fought for diversity, equity and inclusion in the public and private sectors and paved the way for many others.
His powerful and inspirational autobiography, “Not from Here, Not from There – No Soy De Aquí Ni De Allá,” which has been positively received, Díaz said, “I may have been the first but I don’t want to be the last.”