It is with profound sadness that I must share with readers news of the passing of Professor Hope Lewis, 54, one of our earliest and most dedicated IntLawGrrls contributors.
A lovely obituary posted today at the website of Hope’s home institution, Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, reports that she died this past Tuesday, December 6, following a long illness. It further reports:
“Lewis’ funeral will be on Thursday, Dec. 15, at the Bethel AME Church, 40 Walk Hill St., in Boston. The viewing will be at 10 a.m., with a service to follow at 11 a.m. Those who would like to share a memory of Hope may do so at http://www.never-gone.com/memorials/hopelewis. Donations may be made in Lewis’ honor to Partners in Health.”
I learned of her death this afternoon from Iowa Law’s Associate Dean Adrien Katherine Wing, who recalled:
“We knew each other as young lawyers involved with Transafrica, back in the anti-apartheid struggle. We both became professors and I featured her wonderful work on Jamaican women in one of my anthologies. I greatly admired her courage and hope as she taught and published for decades despite being blinded as a result of diabetes. She co-authored the seminal textbook Human Rights and the Global Marketplace: Economic, Social, and Cultural Dimensions. She co-drafted and compiled the ‘Boston Principles on the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of Non-citizens,’ a project of the law school’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy. She was a founding co-chair of the ASIL’s International Disability Rights Interest Group and served on the ASIL executive council between 2010 and 2013.”
In 2011, she received the American Bar Association Section on International Law Mayre Rasmussen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law, in recognition of her tireless mentoring and support of her students and colleagues.
I am grateful to have known Hope. We met in person only once or twice, at the American Society of International Law meetings where the photos at left and above were made. Despite our few in-person acquaintances, I feel I came to know her through our work together on this blog. She was devoted to IntLawGrrls, as this 2012 quote by her attests:
“When I first started blogging … it was frowned on by some. Now, some blogs have strong reputations, frankly I think ours does. Some blogs are essential reading.”
Her posts most certainly were essential reading.
Hope joined us in our 1st year, on February 4, 2008. I reprint below, in full, our post welcoming her and her own post honoring her foremothers. The entries signaled issues she would explore subsequently, in her many, many contributions (available here and here): Hope’s posts explored intersections of race, ethnicity, sex and gender, the Caribbean, Africa and the African diaspora, human rights and economic rights. Like many of us, she shared what the election of Barack Obama as the United States’ 44th President, and the arrival of him and his family in the White House, meant to her, her country, and those she loved. (here, here, here, here, here, here) Hope identified and celebrated “Black Women Teaching International Law.” (here, here, here, here) She contributed one series on the implementation of obligations assumed by U.S. ratification of CERD, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Race Discrimination, and another series on disability rights.
I learned so much from Hope, and I so greatly valued her perspective. I will miss her terribly, and I look forward to celebrating her memory with other ‘Grrls in a few months, when we gather for our 10th Birthday Conference.
Rest well, sister.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts, Hope’s areas of scholarly concentration are international human rights law and other aspects of public international law. In 2005 she published, along with co-editor Jeanne M. Woods, Human Rights and the Global Marketplace: Economic, Social, and Cultural Dimensions, the United States’ 1st textbook focusing on economic, social and cultural rights. She is also an editor of the law school’s Social Science Research Network (SSRN) online publication, the Human Rights and the Global Economy abstracts journal (our latest “connections” link), and has published in a variety of leading law reviews and journals. She’s been a guest contributor to the blackprof.com blog. Hope received the 2001 Haywood Burns-Shanara Gilbert Award for her teaching, scholarship, and human rights activism, and has been a Harvard Law School visiting scholar and a fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research.
Before entering academia, Hope was an attorney-adviser in the Office of Chief Counsel of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and also a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow and Harvard Fellow in Public Interest Law at TransAfrica Forum, a Washington, D.C., based NGO that focuses on U.S. foreign policy toward Africa and the Caribbean. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University/Radcliffe college and a J.D. from Harvard Law.
Hope dedicates her IntLawGrrls contributions to “Miss Lou.” As she explains below, the name’s meant to recall both her grandmother and Louise Bennett-Coverley, the African-Jamaican poet/singer, political satirist, and social critic.
Still, actually choosing such a woman – I wanted to honor the legacy of Black women in international affairs – turned out to be much more challenging than I thought. Not that Black women’s participation in international law, foreign policy, or cross-cultural relations is anything new. But all too often their contributions are invisible in the media or subsequent historical narratives, marginalized or overshadowed by the work of more famous male and/or non-Black relatives or colleagues, or even undermined as distracting or intrusive of mainstream or radical agendas.
No historian, I searched my own limited memory and experience; various intriguing options presented themselves:
► “Nanny” (?-c.1733), legendary Jamaican-Maroon who led resistance to British incursions into Maroon territory), as Kimberly J. Brown discusses here. Nanny of the Windward Maroons is the transnational foremother of Karen E. Bravo, another of us IntLawGrrls.
► Sojourner Truth (1797-November 26, 1883), African-American abolitionist, feminist, orator, and preacher.
► Harriet Tubman (c.1820-March 10, 1913), conductor of the Underground Railroad, who helped hundreds of African-Americans escape slavery to free states in the U.S. and Canada; Union-side Civil War scout, spy, and nurse.
► Mary McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875-May 18, 1955), African-American educator, founder of the National Council of Negro Women; consultant on interracial affairs at the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945.
► Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891-January 28, 1960), novelist, poet, anthropologist of Black cultures in the southern United States, Haiti, and Jamaica.
► Shirley Graham DuBois (November 11, 1907-March 1977), African-American novelist, historian, and political activist; lived as an expatriate in Ghana and Egypt.
► Angela E.V. King (August 28, 1938-February 5, 2007), leading African-Jamaican diplomat and advocate for girls and women; UN Assistant Secretary-General; head of the UN Division for the Advancement of Women.
Because of such women, there are today so many living influential Black women “IntLawGrrls” that they cannot be listed on a single page (and yet, they are still far too few).
Then it hit me. All of my previous work has been dedicated to my mother and my grandmother (middle name Louise), each cross-cultural travelers of a sort. (See, e.g., my 1997 article
Lionheart Gals Facing the Dragon.)
And, like many others of Afro-Caribbean descent, I grew up admiring “Miss Lou,” the stage name of revered African-Jamaican poet/singer, political satirist, and social critic Louise Bennett-Coverley (above right). My grandmother (1902-2005) was also called “Miss Lou” perhaps not coincidentally, since she also loved to perform long dramatic poems for public gatherings.
As detailed here, The Honorable Louise Bennett-Coverley (“Miss Lou”) was born in Jamaica on September 7, 1919 and passed away on July 26, 2006. Educated under the British colonial system, Mrs. Bennett-Coverley became known for documenting and valuing indigenous and syncretic African-Jamaican cultural norms and vernacular through poetry and storytelling. A humorist, she dramatized and poked fun at everyday life among grassroots people, as well as at the pretensions of politicians and British high society. Her social commentary burned in the memory and hit hard, but also left people roaring with laughter.
The Jamaican government and people formally recognized her as Ambassador at Large and granted her the country’s highest honors (the Order of Jamaica and Member of the Order of Merit) for her contributions to the reclamation and enhancement of Jamaican culture.
The international connection? Miss Lou was a walking, talking course in post-colonial globalization. Some of Bennett-Coverley’s poetry captured the contradictions of colonial and post-colonial migration perfectly – the yearnings for socio-economic opportunity promised in the racially charged colonial metropole; the desire to adopt superficially the styles and customs of the colonizer; and the struggle between rejecting home country culture and language as “backward” and the need to hold on to it as a sign of cultural integrity and pride.
Written in response to a large British-government encouraged migration from Jamaica to England during post-World War II labor shortages, her poem “Colonization in Reverse,” excerpted below, still resonates today. It spoofs the headlong rush to find fortune in “the Mother-land,” but also subtly reveals the political, economic, and cultural resistance and subversion that migration itself could represent. The former British colonizers themselves now feared “invasion” by Afro-Caribbean peoples.
The Creole patois spelling is retained below as used in 1966. (Reggae artist Bob Marley is said to have credited Miss Lou’s example with providing the basis for his own use of Jamaican dialect over the objections of early record distributors that it would damage international sales). (See Times of London obituary of Louise Bennett Coverley.)
Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,
I feel like me heart gwine burs
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in reverse.By de hundred, by de tousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane-load
Jamaica is Englan boun.
. . . .
What a islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An tun history upside dun!My blog posts will be dedicated to the women named above, and especially to Miss Lou, for her ability to affirm culture and criticize injustice with humor and insight, and for her hope that all of us could turn history upside down.