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Derrick Bell
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Derrick Bell

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April 19, 2014
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Preview Entry
April 19, 2014
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Please don't submit copyrighted work; original poems, songs or prayers welcomed.

Legacy.com reviews all Guest Book entries to ensure appropriate content. Our staff does not correct grammar or spelling. Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
October 15, 2011
Dear Bell Family,
I have struggled mightily over the past week to find words to express my sorrow at your loss, and ours.
I met Derrick the week he began his service as Dean at the University of Oregon School of Law. Derrick hired me as his Research Assistant--a job that mostly involved cite-checking each foot note in the Second Edition of "Race, Racism, and American Law." He funded my continued employment, at least in part, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for several weeks one summer in Eugene,OR, I served as a coordinator for a seminar Derrick organized for a group of about 14 lawyers and judges from around the State of Oregon who came together to study racism in their everyday experiences with the law. Derrick challenged those lawyers, judges, and me--then a second year law student--to view our lives through a kaleidoscope of the history of Black America and the people who inhabited it.
We were, in many respects, an odd coupling; I was a newly married, 24 year old, Jewish, white woman who had grown up first on the South Side of Chicago, and later, as white flight changed the Chicago landscape forever, in an affluent north shore suburb--yet Derrick and I found that we had more commonalities than differences.
Derrick taught me more about "chutzpah" than any of my Jewish ancestors. Two years out of law school and interviewing for jobs in Chicago, I encountered a senior partner at a Chicago firm who seemed taken aback that I had worked with Derrick. Didn't I believe, the partner asked, that the constitution was color-blind? I took the opportunity to share with this partner many of the lessons that I had learned from Derrick, arguing passionately that our constitution was not color-blind when written and that it could never be truly colorblind because we could not ignore hundreds of years of Black history. When I finished, the partner said "that tells me all I need to know about you. Is there anything you'd like to know about us?" "No," I answered, "that tells me everything I need to know about you," and I stood up and walked out.
When I left Eugene after my law school graduation in 1982, Derrick gave me a candid photograph of myself that he had taken, sitting in the Oregon countryside in denim overalls, sharing a bottle of wine with our lawyers and judges. On it, he wrote--"May your tribe increase. Love, Derrick."
I reflected on Derrick's death last night as I said Mourner's Kaddish for him at Shabbat Services--and it was in my weekly prayer book that I found the words I want to share with you:
May the One whose spirit is with us in every righteous deed, be with all who work for the good of humanity and bear the burdens of others and who give bread to the hungry, who clothe the naked, and take the friendless into their homes. May the work of their hands endure, and may the seed they sow bring abundant harvest.
I will remember Derrick always because he worked for the good of humanity and bore the burdens of others--may the work of his hands endure and may his tribe increase.
I wish you great love and peace,
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