BLACC event to feature civil rights advocate

Constance Rice, second cousin of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will speak Feb. 12 at the African-American History Assembly.  As an experienced campaigner and all-around civil rights advocate, Rice is known for her advances in multiracial democracy.

“I believe it is important to have this assembly,” Dean Tamar Adegbile said.  “It is an opportunity to celebrate and highlight the contributions of African-Americans.”

Rice graduated from Harvard College in 1978 and received the Root Tilden Public Interest Scholarship to the New York University School of Law.  After graduating in 1984, she worked in the United States Court of Appeals and as a litigation associate before joining the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She became co-director of the Los Angeles office in 1996.

Rice has filed numerous class action civil rights cases in which she moved for a decrease in racial and sexual discrimination as well as unfair public policy in transportation, probation and public housing.Â

She won more than $2 billion for improving the bus system.  In 1999, Rice won $750 million for new school construction in Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles Times named Rice as one of the top 24 leaders of experience and authority on Los Angeles in 1998.  Rice was also named one of California’s top 10 most influential lawyers by California Law Business. In 2003, Rice accepted an honorary doctorate of law degrees from Occidental College.

In addition to litigation work, Rice acted as counsel to the Watts gang truce and headed a campaign to save equal opportunity programs throughout the state. Rice was appointed to the governing board of the Department of Water and Power by Mayors Tom Bradley and Richard Riordan, where she served as president during the 1990s. She lead a campaign to place agressive school board reformers into governing boards for public schools.

Rice now serves as co-director of The Advancement Project in Los Angeles, which supports organizations that work to end community conflicts and works to deal with various barriers to opportunity.

“She is an activist and a great public speaker,” Adegbile said.